I’ve never met Siya or Rachel Kolisi.
I would even (ashamedly) admit that up until this Rugby World Cup, I didn’t even know who our rugby captain was, let alone that it was a black man. Don’t get me wrong – I love rugby but it just so happens that most of our games are in ‘crazy hour’ with three kids around.
But I got to watch last week’s quarter final. I was in a little town en route home after an amazing trip the bush and we stopped at a Dros. For those who don’t know – a Dros is a family pub – and a franchise that advertises “Jou ma se kos…” (Food the way your mom would make it.)
I sat in this place, with an Afrikaans name and slogan, in a small town in Limpopo province. We arrived in time to catch the game, grab a bite and continue on the long road home. In my youth, Dros was a restaurant white people went to. As students, we went there for the beer specials and bottomless buckets of ribs.
This day, South Africa versus Japan in the 2019 RWC quarter final, I found this Dros filled with every sort of South African I could think of. There were tables of mixed race. There were Afrikaans families sharing a space with coloured families because space was at a premium and when we scored – which fortunately we did – the whole place burst into loud cheering in all tongues.
Rugby was always an Afrikaans sport. Dros was always a white restaurant.
To my friends who are still in a bubble, South Africa is a new country.
And that’s when someone said, Siya Kolisi is the most important South African in the world right now. He’s doing more for our country than any politician could.
So I did what all good citizens do and googled him. And I realised that he had a long way in his own life – from humble beginnings that are not a-typical for many South African youths. His mother had him when she was sixteen, his father wasn’t really around, he was raised in his later youth by his grandmother after his mother passed away… Not unusual but tragic nonetheless.
But watching rugby again today, when we (South Africa) made our way into the final against England next week, I realised again that Siya Kolisi is a symbol of South Africa as we always hoped it would be. He’s a black guy in a white sport in a revered position and adored by the fans across our nation. But more than that, he’s garnered a whole new generation of fans, who may never have been interested in rugby up until this world cup.
And his wife is a pretty, young white woman. And their children are mixed race. And they’ve adopted his two half siblings who were orphaned when his mother died. What an image.
And apart from the fact that our country desperately needs a picture such as this, the world looking in did too. You can’t bottle the feeling in the Dros last week – but I wept watching big burly Afrikaaners hugging lean looking African men and all of them wearing green and gold. And I realised that we – the ones who have stayed, the ones who have chosen to look the other way in the face of crime and corruption in favour of an incredible life style in the sun. – have finally seen what we were staying for.
I look at this entire scene: black rugby (white sport) captain, married to a white woman, adopting two orphans, raising two mixed race children, a Dros (white restaurant) filled with black and coloured and white people cheering on our team, and all cheering and shouting for the same goal in any of our glorious eleven official languages. It is the New South African dream.
We’ve stayed. We’re staying until God tells us to go. But I wish my friends who have left could be here now, to see this first hand. It is a miracle. It is a remarkable testimony to our people. It is a victory for our staying power.
Now, it would be super cool if we went on to with the World Cup. But no pressure.