It sucks when you have beaten in a tournament the team most people think is the best in the world, but you still don’t go home with the trophy.
England knocked out the defending titleholders of rugby’s World Cup, the almighty New Zealand All-Blacks, at the semi-final stage, and went into Saturday’s final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Yokohama as favorites.
But it turns out the best team in the world is South Africa’s Springboks, who drubbed the Lions 32-12 with a ruthless display of power rugby. As per ESPN’s Tom Hamilton:
“This was as destructive a performance as you’ll ever see in the sport as South Africa suffocated and out-muscled England to win their third Rugby World Cup.”
Lifting the trophy would have been a sweet moment for the Springboks’ captain, Siya Kolisi, the first black man to captain the national team of a country where for so long rugby had been the epitome of white supremacy. The Springboks were banned from the first two rugby world cups, in 1987 and 1991, because the game was still segregated there.
It hosted the next one, in the year after Nelson Mandela’s election as the first president of post-Apartheid South Africa. Mandela believed the Springboks could be a force for national unity. Clint Eastwood turned their upset win and Mandela’s backing into Invictus, a film whose underlying storyline was strong enough to survive the Hollywood treatment and casting of Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.
Regardless, South Africa’s sport remains as divided as its society over race.