Captain Siya Kolisi dedicated Rugby World Cup glory to “every South African” during a triumphant homecoming in Johannesburg.
The Springboks received a rapturous welcome on Tuesday as they were greeted by thousands of fans at a packed OR Tambo International Airport.
South Africa retained the Webb Ellis Cup thanks to Saturday evening’s 12-11 success over New Zealand in Paris to become the first nation to win the men’s competition four times.
Flanker Kolisi, who also led his country to victory against England in the 2019 final in Japan, paraded the trophy through the huge crowd.
“Today, South Africa showed us exactly who we did it for,” he said, according to a press release from the South African Rugby Union.
“On behalf of the team, we’d like to thank the people of South Africa. It was a tough 20 weeks, but there was four years of planning behind that.
“When we won the World Cup in 2019, people didn’t think we would do it – instead, they were hopeful because the plan was always for 2023, but things changed and we won in 2019, and this time our people expected us to win.
“This was not about us as players. This victory was for every South African, and we showed what is possible with this diverse team.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 31, 2023
Kolisi, South Africa’s first black captain, overcame childhood poverty to become a two-time world champion.
The 32-year-old has repeatedly spoken of the Springboks being motivated by the everyday struggles endured by millions of their compatriots.
“As a team, we want to be a reference point for our people, to show them how we can do it, and hopefully they’ll get hope from this team,” he continued.
“Another important thing for us was to transform while winning. But we’d also like this to extend beyond sport and what is happening in South Africa, and how people see things going forward.
“We may not be able to change people’s circumstances, but we can give hope we can inspire people.”
The Springboks won the World Cup for the first time in 1995 following a 15-12 victory over the All Blacks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
South Africa’s sports minister Zizi Kodwa referenced former president Nelson Mandela, who presented the trophy to skipper Francois Pienaar following that victory 28 years ago, as he lauded the achievement of the current side.
“The team’s performances on and off the field was an expression of former president Nelson Mandela’s saying that ‘sport has the power to change the world, sport can create hope where once there was only despair’,” Kodwa said.
“This victory pays homage to his vision, and it’s a dream to see the nation so united.”