What does it actually mean? As a proud sporting nation we recently experienced one of the most humiliating and embarrassing defeats I think the world will ever see. Japan beat the Springboks. I think that equates to something like Bafana Bafana beating Brazil at the soccer world cup. As much as the defeat hurt – how some of the ‘fans’ reacted hurt even more. Yes we were disappointed. If you weren’t then I doubt your level of commitment to the team to begin with; but to hear people saying things like ‘I’m not supporting the Springboks anymore’ or ‘I’m going to start supporting the All Blacks’ revealed something to me about what the nature of ‘support’ has become to mean. There are some interesting parallels to be seen in how these attitudes affect personal relationships as well.
I believe support means being there no matter what. Through the good times and more importantly through the tough times. It’s easy to support your team (or partner) when things are going well. When you winning. It’s how most people suddenly became Manchester United fans. I believe these are the people to avoid dating (or even as friends) at all costs. Support is needed most when your team is down. Help them get back up. Things are going to go wrong and it’s not about that; it’s about how you react and ultimately rise to the challenge. We share their pain. We share their disappointment. Switching alliances at the first sign of problems reveals nothing more than your fickle nature; that when times are tough you are not someone to be counted on or trusted.
Yes the pain of losing to Japan was immense and I am sure many people decided to ‘give up’ on the boks. My question is: when we win the World Cup, and I have a gut feeling we will, what will you say then? How will your alliances to the All Blacks be affected? Will you suddenly switch back?
Let’s look at this in more detail and explore people’s decisions.
My question is what about your adopted rugby team and country do you know? Have you bothered to investigate what the New Zealanders past regarding Maoris is? Are you aware of the current state of affairs for Maoris is? Do you know the Haka? Their national anthem? The questions seek to understand your integrity and belief system and why you switch allegiances. I have no problem accepting a South African supporting the All Blacks if they can give me a better reason than ‘The All Blacks Brand of rugby is what I like’ or the old ‘because of apartheid’ line…. a statement to be discussed in another article. Simply put: supporting the All Blacks because of Apartheid nowadays is like not buying a German car because of Hitler.
My blood is green. It was when we suffered the humiliating 49-0 loss to Australia before we won the World Cup the following year. It was when we lost 52-16 to England at Twickenham only to have beaten them at their fortress every year since then and remain unbeaten to England for twelve years including handing them their 36-0 hiding in the group stages in 2007 (largest defeat to a defending World Champion side) and subsequently in final to win the 2007 World Cup.
You see, when you come to understand the true definition of support you realise no team is immune to troughs or bad patches. In fact it’s sometimes these exact things that can propel a team to heights they never knew existed. They choose to use the experience to make them a better team. Better people. Better supporters. The losses make victories that much sweeter. Rewarding.
Heart ache is a part of life. It’s how we choose to deal with it and learn from it that separates great people from the average whining mob. These instances are great reminders about why certain people are in my life; why others will be nothing more than a lesson learned on this fantastic road called life.
I find sport a very special opportunity to get insights into people and who they really are. Our boys are doing their best; and if they are not then they will not be Springboks for long. Let’s not forget that the more passionate and steadfast our support is for them – the greater the honour for them to put that green and gold jersey on becomes. Playing for your country should be the highest honour. I am one of the proudest Springbok supporters and I am even more proud since hearing about the guard of honour given to Japanese supporters at Brighton train station. Would English fans have done that? All Black fans? I have my reservations. What a moment. What respect shown in a world where we are so quick to jump to social media and air our pain. These are reasons we as South Africans are so highly respected around the world. If you travel you can proudly state ‘I am South African’ and flash that smile laced with our African suns warmth.
Let’s uphold the true definition of support. Let Springbok supporters become synonymous with that; the pinnacle.
We’re into the semis now and whether we win or come fourth – my blood is green and all I expect is those fifteen warriors to play with the passion with which we support them. For our support to be unwavering from that day on when we hold the trophy aloft for a record third time.