Skipper Siya Kolisi said it was a great source of pride but admitted he was unaware of the statistic until it was put to him by a South African journalist at the pre-match press conference.
The transformation of sport in the country has been a difficult process, particularly in rugby and cricket which have historically been the preserve of the traditional, white elite.
The pace of change has not always been as quick as many would hope but Kolisi paid tribute to the Springboks’ coaching staff, led by Rassie Erasmus, Jacques Nienaber and Mzwandile Stick, for their commitment to producing a national side that is more reflective of the demographics of the country.
“When coach Rassie came in and Jacques and coach Stick, I said it earlier: winning, transformation and squad depth [were their aims],” said Kolisi.
“[Erasmus was] one of the first coaches to speak openly about it and say ‘this has to change and it is part of the team’s goals and we’re going to consistently work on it and check on it’.”
Kolisi was the first black man to captain the Springboks when he was appointed in 2018 and led them to World Cup glory in Japan the following year. He believes the culture now instilled in the squad has empowered each individual.
“Now we can speak as players,” he said. “We’ve got a platform and can be ourselves and I love that. So it’s not only the numbers, it’s actually everything. Yes, I’m the captain of the team, and everyone sees that from the outside, but inside there are many leaders and each and every single guy in this team has a role to play.
“So we’re not only growing and transformation is not only happening just because of numbers. First of all, the guys are good enough but also we are also growing as sportsmen, growing as leaders.
“We’re not where we want to be but I really believe we are moving in the right direction.
“I didn’t know that [nine players of colour] but that is really huge. I’m really proud of that and hopefully we can get better and better by performing well and getting opportunities.”