Shamik Das

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Emotional Mandela summons spirit of '95 while holders plan greatest comeback since Lazarus

Jonny Wilkinson    Bryan Habana

Stade de France, St Denis, World Cup Final:
England v South Africa

AS DAWN broke over Paris this morning the Springbok squad woke to the words of the greatest South African of them all - Nelson "Mabida" Mandela.

Unable to make the game in person, Mandela urged South Africa to play the game "hard and honestly" in a pre-recorded video message to the nation.

For England, though, revenge will be uppermost in their minds. 36 days on from their 36-0 mauling by the Springboks, the holders go big-game hunting again in the biggest game of their lives.

More than six weeks have passed since the defending champions suffered their worst defeat in World Cup history, a battering they have bounced back from to record back-to-back triumphs against Australia and France.

The game also pits two of the most evocative anthems in sport against each other, Shosholoza and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, songs with similar origins steeped in political, as well as sporting history.

Shosholoza, Zulu for "go forward" or "make way for the next man", is a traditional Southern African folk song, sung by all-male work gangs in Rhodesia, travelling on the trains down to the mines in the Transvaal in a call and response style.


Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, meanwhile, was composed by Wallis Willis, a one-time slave of the Choctaw Native Americans in the old Indian Territory, around 1862. He was inspired by the Red River which reminded him of the Jordan River and of the Prophet Elijah being taken to heaven by a chariot.

However, latter day sources claim that the Mississippi River or the Ohio River could be substituted for the Jordan River, implying that this song had some hidden lyrics referring to the Underground Railroad.

But it is to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela that the greatest inspiration is to be found. "We are powerfully reminded of that historic day in 1995," said the former president. "We not only won the Rugby World Cup, but more importantly, we were one nation united behind our victorious team.

"We know that our boys have the ability, strength and determination to be victorious once more, because we are a winning nation. I do not doubt for a moment that the Springboks can win back the trophy. Hold your heads high whatever the outcome.

"Bring it home Boks, Mayigoduswe indebe yamabhokobhoko, Bring the cup home Bokke, Bring die beker huistoe waar hy hoort Bokke, Mayibuye Ekhaya Bokke, Bring it home Bokke!"

Gentlemen, it's over to you ...

Watch the World Cup Final tonight on ITV1 from 7:30pm (kick-off 8:00) or listen to it live on BBC Radio Five Live (909 & 693AM) or the
BBC Sport website.


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