I don't know how else to say this except, thank you. You have made a believer out of me again.
It's been over 20 years now since I screamed or shouted for a Springbok victory. I was at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final. A boy in standard 8 with his dad, behind the posts where Joel Stransky kicked the winning drop kick, and I screamed and celebrated for days like the rest of SA. The country was filled with hope, with optimism, with a feeling that everything was going to be OK. Francois Pienaar hugging Madiba, the world watching, we were destined to be great. Nothing could stop us. Hope streamed through every corner of this country of ours. Surely this was the start of something great.
But alas, it faded, for me and the people close to me, I could sense it, you could feel it. The hope, the inspiration and optimism faded since that feeling I had back then at Ellis Park that day. For the sake of brevity, what followed was years of change and hardship as a country. Presidents came and went, a downturn in the economy, low optimism, all coupled with poor sports results. Don't kid yourself, this country's sports results have a massive impact on the country and its people. I found myself resenting the country I was born in. Resenting SA rugby, resenting SA sport, resenting the government, and throwing blame at fellow South Africans.
I found myself being negative about everything in SA, sport, people, economy, and even spoke of immigrating. So much so, I found myself supporting and shouting for the All Blacks for a good few years. A criminal sin, I know. How could someone do this? But their rugby and their culture made me happy, and I needed some happiness. Their approach and their professionalism were something I needed and wanted in a team, which SA just didn't give. Did I sell my country out? Maybe, but I felt like it had sold me out, so fair was fair. Deep down inside I guess I didn't want to, but sometimes it's easier to ignore adversity and chose the easy road.
But now, I'm a father of a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old. My children have never seen a World Cup, and don't know what a Springbok is, or what it means to be one. These two young South Africans are born only knowing SA as world champions, a rarity. I see the hope I had behind the poles in '95 in them. Of course, we dressed them in green and gold on Friday and Saturday. Born in this country, born into this democracy - young, innocent, and full of hope and promise. The future I saw standing in front of me filled with promise. Hope that you and your team have reinstated back into me, back into the people of this country.
So why now, why not in 2007? Am I jumping back on the winning bandwagon here now that you are world champions? No, is my answer, I didn't in 2007. That team was different, for me, that was about them. I'd be sending you this letter even if you had lost the final on Saturday. Simply put, you, Rassie, your team, all of you didn't play or win this World Cup for you, you did it for the people of your country, and that above all else is what makes this World Cup win different from 2007, and on a par with 1995.
You all have made me a believer again, and I have the utmost respect for each and everyone of you. I found myself shouting at the TV, screaming when we scored a try. Something I haven't done in over 20 years during a Bok rugby game. I guess you could say you re-grew my heart for SA, if there is such a thing.
You made me feel pride again, feel "gees" again, and feel hope again for this great country! Please don't lose this momentum. You are a pillar of inspiration, you can and have made a difference to your people. You have my backing, Siya. My children have my backing, and we can grow this hope and build this country together. It starts at home, with each and every individual. Stronger together has never rung more true than it does right now in South Africa.
Like I said, thank you, I am a believer, again!
Dean Grove, Durban