Imagine a Wallaby in New Zealand, a Puma in South Africa or an All Black in Argentina. It’s a strange feeling when so settled, at home and happy in a different country to be faced with split (or not-so-split) loyalties when it comes to sport, and for some reason especially rugby in our case. Settling in this great southern land with its own spectacular beauty, vast open spaces and welcoming people makes you grateful for the freedom of lifestyle it offers, humbled by the amazing opportunities and proud to call it home, but when a national sports team from your country of birth (that other great southern land) visits, there is but one choice and that is to deck the Springbok colours.
As is the case with everything in life peoples’ experiences differ and not everyone will feel the same way, not even all South Africans (otherwise a rugby game in Perth would have been like a home game for the Boks) and the memories we carry with us that helped shape us over the years are all individual. I, for instance, have vivid memories of growing up with the Springboks being an icon of national pride. Of listening to commentary of test matches over radio broadcasts on short wave before the days when sport was on live TV and also of a time when we were visiting friends in northern Namibia (South-West Africa at the time) where we were watching a local rugby match being played in the sand (it was too dry to keep a rugby pitch watered and green) and all the farmers’ vehicles were parked around the “field” and everyone was watching from their vehicles whilst listening to famous rugby commentator Gerhard Viviers commentating on a rugby test match on short wave on their vehicles’ radios, his commentary so descriptive that pictures weren’t needed.
Memories of going to school at the foot of Table Mountain next to Newlands Rugby Stadium, of Saturday afternoons spent watching rugby and eating biltong, growing up in the era of the great provincial rivalry between Western Province and Northern Transvaal, songs being written about rugby and later of the great man Nelson Mandela, our beloved Madiba, working hard at reuniting the rainbow nation and supporting the Springboks, making the 1995 Rugby World Cup and South Africa’s victory such a big part of national unity and identity.
Being married to a man who loves rugby passionately and will watch most matches “just for the rugby” regardless of who’s playing, and whose support of the Springboks meant that our social life has always been arranged around the rugby (we even turned up late at a wedding reception years ago because of a rugby match being on at the same time) did nothing to lessen my own support of the Springboks. On the contrary, I think it’s quite contagious because our kids seem to have inherited it as well. I suppose that’s not surprising considering that one of our first dates was at a WP vs Northern Transvaal rugby match – the first Friday night match at Newlands – and as such I was honoured to have cracked the nod to be invited along to such an important event. There has also been a great deal of loud “correcting” comments being made to the ref (on TV) over the years and the option nowadays to pause live TV makes for some in depth (replay and) analysis of on-field events and decisions. In his defence, I have to admit that my husband is a bit of a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to rugby and other sporting facts, tests, players, dates, scores, tries, runs, and other records and has an unreal ability to retain all those details (as opposed to detail about everyday life).
I have to confess that my sporting allegiance extends to cricket and other sports as well. It’s just not something I’m able to turn on and off at will, but I do support the Wallabies when they play all other countries. In that context the South African national anthem – Nkosi Sikilel iAfrika (God Bless Africa) and Die Stem (The Call of South Africa) “… sounds the call to come together; and united we shall stand…” – will always hold a most special place in my heart but I am equally honoured to sing Advance Australia Fair; “Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free…”. I am proud to be a Springbok supporter in the Land Down Under.