Johannesburg: Ecstatic South Africans celebrated well into Sunday after the Springboks claimed a record fourth title by defeating New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final in Paris.
Supporters of the national rugby team drank, waved flags and partied until the early hours in a wave of jubilation that swept the country from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
“I feel so good, I was literally in tears,” said Sofia Pringen, 21, her face painted in South Africa’s national colours as she celebrated in central Cape Town after the victory.
“I knew that we (were) definitely going to win. I’m so happy! I am very happy!”
The iconic port city’s centre and waterfront were swarmed by thousands of Springboks t-shirt-wearing fans on Saturday night, many having watched the game at one of the several maxi screens set up by local authorities for public viewing.
After the match, motorcades of honking cars rode through the streets.
“It’s an incredible feeling, absolutely incredible feeling. The energy from all the local people, from everyone from Cape Town (is) absolutely unreal,” said Daniel Louis, a 20-year-old student.
South Africa edged New Zealand 12-11 for a nail-biting victory, helped by four penalty goals from ice-cool fly-half Handre Pollard.
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At a tavern in Alexandra, a crime-ridden, impoverished Johannesburg township, celebrating Springboks supporters hugged, danced and cheered as the referee blew the final whistle.
As is often the case with finals, the match was a tight, edgy encounter at a rain-soaked Stade de France, where defences ruled and the All Blacks lost captain Sam Cane to a first-half red card for a high tackle.
The Springboks prevailed to win a third successive knockout match in this tournament by a point, and add to their titles in 1995, 2007 and 2019.
Ramaphosa hails Springboks
“Sport has the power to transform individuals ... and lift the spirits of entire nations,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was at the stadium in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, and flanked captain Siya Kolisi as he lifted the Webb Ellis Cup.
“Tonight, Siya Kolisi and the 2023 World Cup champions have gifted us an extraordinary, inspired and inspiring national achievement that lifts our hearts and hoists our Flag even higher.”
It was the second time Kolisi has lifted the trophy after a 32-12 triumph over England in the 2019 final in Japan.
The first black player to wear the captain’s armband in a Test match, the 32-year-old has been pivotal in bringing many young, black South Africans closer to the sport in recent years.
The Springboks were once seen as a symbol of apartheid as, for 90 years, selectors chose only white players.
The team was banned from the first two editions of the Rugby World Cup because of the policies of the white-minority government.
“The Springboks have not only displayed supreme athleticism, but also the spirit of unity, impeccable teamwork and perseverance that defines our nation,” said Moloto Mothapo, a spokesman for the South African parliament.
“This achievement exemplifies the transformative power of sport in South Africa. It’s not just about the game; it’s about its ability to unite our diverse nation, reinvigorate hope, and showcasing the strength that comes from our rich diversity.”
The Springboks are expected to arrive back in South Africa from France on Tuesday.