South African Expat: On Winning The Rugby World Cup 2019

By Zoë Cohen

Growing up with a Grandfather screaming at the TV during every sports match (but mostly rugby) – his commentary definitely more valid than the commentators’ – I’ve learnt the rules… writes Zoë Cohen.

Rugby World Cup - Final - England v South Africa
South Africa players spray sparkling wine as they celebrate winning the world cup final. REUTERS/Issei Kato

I’ve learnt the passion, I’ve learnt the culture of not speaking during the match, I’ve learnt
that my blood is Green and Gold.
I took this all for granted while living in South Africa.
I value this more than anything now that I live in Israel.

A while ago I wrote an article on being a blindly-inlove expat with South Africa.
Today I write an article on being unapologetically South African, unapologetically able to
disregard the negativity – even if just for one week.

On the night of November 1, I couldn’t sleep. The next day would be the Rugby World Cup
Finals, and my feelings were unnaturally disturbing me.

Firstly, I was insanely petrified of missing my alarm the next morning. My schedule was
planned to the second.

I’d wake up and leave the house with 15 minutes to get to Molly Blooms’ Bar – a bar that
was screening the game. A bar that was so fully booked by South Africans and the odd
Englishman that I had pretty much been told I wouldn’t be able to get a seat.

I’d arrive at the Bar basically an hour and fifteen minutes before the game would start.
I’d get the middle seat at the Bar so that I’d be able to order a beer, choose to watch
between two screens, and be able to bang my fists on the bar when unsatisfied.
I’d use the bar to stand up when we won.

Secondly, I was insanely excited.

I got that seat at the bar,
I drank a beer,
I banged my fist on the bar when I started getting fed-up with relying on penalties to get
I banged my fist on the bar, then used it to stand up when we scored our first try.

But, when we won, I used the bar as a crutch to almost stand right up on my chair and
quickly turn around to see the South African happiness and excitement. I saw all of that, but what got me was the face of one of my Father’s oldest friends – who doesn’t even live in Israel, who I probably hadn’t even seen in 10 or more years.

I burst into tears. I’ll tell you why.

I needed this win.
Expats needed this win.
South Africa needed this win.
Just like in 1995.
I don’t need to mention how the Boks affect every South African – rugby is in our blood, the Boks keep our flame alive.

I do need to mention how this final game broke the ice through the above effect.

The past few years – especially this past year – has been rocky for our Nation.
The Brain Drain, the riots, the Xenophobia, the taxi-sector war, the economy, the violence,
rape and crime – just to touch on a few.

The heartache so harshly felt.
The loss of hope so apparent.
The need for Facebook Groups as a reminder of the good.
The need for something extraordinary to ignite some sort of South African-flavored flame.

The need for something – anything – to connect the Rainbow Nation.
One cause, country-wide encompassing, that would also reel in the expats.

November 2 2019 is, in my opinion, a modernly historical event.

It is the day that possibly broke the ice. Not permanently, but perhaps almost enough for
right now, before the ice would freeze South Africa, South Africans, in a state of
devastation. Even if it just lasts a week.

On November 2 2019, South Africans around the world made plans just as I did.
Somewhere to stream, a certain time to wake up – details that unite the Nation.

On November 2 2019, South Africans around the world sang the National Anthem with their
heart and soul.

On November 2 2019, South Africans around the world were cognizant of their roots.
Cognizant of fellow Safa’s around them.
Cognizant of the Safa-to-Safa connection.

On November 2 2019, South Africans around the world remembered Tata Madiba and 1995.

On November 2 2019, South Africans around the world screamed and smiled and cried and
felt pride.

On November 2 2019, South Africans around the world were South African.
And that’s the point.
Expats were South African – proudly South African. Lovingly South African.
Unapologetically South African.
That’s the point.

I don’t know what it was like for South Africans in South Africa; but for the expats, the ones filled with hate and the ones filled with timeless love, November 2 2019 – the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final – broke the ice. It unleashed all the positive feelings that include hope, even if just for a week.

So, thank you to the Boks, thank you to England, thank you to the newly-engraved trophy,
for reawakening that South African-flavoured flame.
That feeling of being purely, proudly South African.
Even if just for one week.

By Zoë Cohen, South African in Israel