Bryan Habana has dedicated South Africa’s World Cup semi-final to teacher Zukisa Kela, whose last words were “Go Springboks Go” before being drowned by a gang.
Habana opened South Africa’s press conference yesterday by paying tribute to 25-year-old rugby coach Kela, who was tied up and thrown into a lake by a 12-strong gang.
Johannesburg social sciences teacher Kela’s last words have been reported as “Viva maBokoboko viva”, leaving the Springboks shocked — but once again hopeful rugby can unite their homeland.
South Africa face defending champions New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday, with wing Habana expressing his side’s extra level of motivation.
“To Zukisa Kela and his family after the tragedy that happened in South Africa, our thoughts and prayers are with you,” said Habana.
“He was tragically drowned in South Africa, and on drowning his last words were ‘Viva maBokoboko viva’, which is ‘Go Springboks go’.
“That passion and fire that he showed for South Africa, on his last moment, was pretty special.
“That’s something that we as a Springboks team were really saddened to hear about.
“To be able to see the support and passion he had for the Springboks makes the reason we play this game, the reason we play for South Africa and play for our country so much more special.
“To his family, friends, the school where he taught: We’re thinking of you, you’re in our prayers.”
South Africa launched their World Cup campaign with the tournament’s greatest ever shock, losing out 34-32 to Japan in Brighton. Even the country’s sports minister lambasted the Springboks, with coach Heyneke Meyer admitting the team had let down their nation.
The South Africans have built steadily since, edging out Wales 23-19 at Twickenham in Saturday’s quarter-final.
No side has ever won the World Cup after losing a pool-stage contest, but South Africa want to make history.
Habana admitted the lot of men like Kela keeps the Springboks squad fully grounded amid their quest for World Cup glory. “Losing a quarter-final, losing a semi-final, even losing a final of a World Cup would never be ideal, and losing is certainly not something we have on the back of our minds — but the loss of life is not something you can put a value on.
“And we all understand the responsibility we have as Springboks, when we get the opportunity to wear this jersey for a country that is unique and where things get done a lot differently.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand centre Conrad Smith has described South Africa as the All Blacks’ “ultimate rival”.
“They are a special opponent, and it’s a very special rivalry,” he said. “I grew up during the apartheid era, when Australia were the traditional foes, but now South Africa have come back into it and I think it’s got back to where it was and they are our ultimate rival.
“There is something special about playing them, and playing them in a semi-final will be extra special.”
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen will name his team for the clash tomorrow, with loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett the main fitness concern.
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