Green and gold fever grips S.Africa ahead of Rugby World Cup finalThu, 26 Oct 2023 01:16:19 GMT

From restaurant cooks to street workers, Springbok jersey-wearing South Africans are ubiquitous in Johannesburg, as a frenzied mood grips the nation in anticipation of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final.In fact, the only places where the iconic green and gold t-shirts are almost impossible to be found are sportswear stores, where they have run out. “We received a new batch on Sunday but they sold out within an hour,” said a dread-locked shop assistant at a popular retailer in an affluent suburb of the city.  Since Nelson Mandela rallied behind the Springboks in 1995, support for the team once seen as a symbol of apartheid has become a unifying, jubilant moment in a country still torn by deep societal divides and struggling with high poverty and unemployment. The momentum gathered pace after Siya Kolisi, the first black player to wear the captain’s armband in a Test match, successfully skippered the side to World Cup glory in 2019 in a win that brought many young, black South Africans closer to the sport.Dreams of a repeat are fuelling a green and gold fever.The Springboks will face the All Blacks at the Stade de France in Paris in a showdown between old rivals that will produce the first four-time World Cup winner.”We are coming back with this trophy, this is how I feel. I feel like I am the boys and the boys are me, they feel what I feel,” said Obert Sebogodi, 38, a homeless man wearing a Springbok jersey who makes a living checking on cars parked outside a Johannesburg mall in exchange for a tip.Even a kindergarten’s annual show on Wednesday featured a bunch of four-year-olds dressed in the national colours eagerly waving rugby balls to the sound of “Hie’ Kommie Bokke”, a popular anthem celebrating the rugby team.Fans desperate to get their hands on some official merchandise are falling victim to online scams, according to local media reports. Many South Africans took to social media in recent days to defend hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who is facing an investigation over accusations he made a racial slur at England’s Tom Curry, claiming the Springbok was misheard. “Bongi Mbonambi is us. We support you Bongi,” Sports Minister Zizi Kodwa wrote on X, previously known as Twitter. Mbonambi, a key player, could be barred from the final if found guilty.”The World Cup this year has been one of the most exciting and unifying sporting events in our nation’s history,” Cape Town’s mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said announcing three public viewing sites are to be set up in the city. The Pirates Club, a Johannesburg sporting venue, said it was also preparing extra screens and bars, and planning to cap access issuing about 1,500 entry tickets, after things got “a little bit hectic” when more than 2,000 fans showed up for South Africa’s last game against England.Having gone through a few “downers” including the coronavirus pandemic and a prolonged energy crisis, the country was in celebratory mood and staff were hoping to close way beyond normal hours on Saturday, said the club’s marketing manager Michele Butcher, 32. “We look at the different people that are coming through to the club: different age groups, different races, different religions…we all just come together as a nation for this.”