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. Hopefully we can continue doing our country proud, and hopefully by doing what we do on a Saturday we can bring a country together, unite a country – and make sure that whatever happens back home people have some form of hope.”
South Africa launched their World Cup campaign with the tournament’s greatest 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 are intent on making history.
Hosting and winning the 1995 tournament created a sea-change in South Africa’s culture, Nelson Mandela donning a Springboks jersey and handing captain Francois Pienaar the Webb Ellis Cup coming to symbolise the hopes of the nation.
While Habana regrets that incidents like the death of teacher Kela are all too common, the 32-year-old insisted the Springboks will continue to fight to bring light relief to their supporters and their country.
“For a lot of us, especially coming from South Africa, where rugby is such a passionate sport and that has done so much for our country, being able to have the privilege and honour of wearing that jersey sometimes overclouds the perspective of life,” said Habana.
“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.”