When the Rugby World cup got underway just over a month ago, Cabbages and Kings (7 September) attempted to remind readers what it would mean to the nation if the Springboks were to lift the trophy in Paris on 20 October.
At the time, the column was written more in fervent and patriotic hope than with any real conviction or confidence in the ultimate outcome. It was also written from the heart by one of those 70 000 odd spectators who was fortunate enough to be at a game 12 years ago that inspired a nation.
On the eve of the final we are well on the way to realising a dream and to recapturing the emotion-charged spirit of national pride, unification and reconciliation that marked the day in 1995 when Madiba stepped out on the turf at Ellis Park to hand the William Web Ellis trophy to Francois Pienaar – to the delirious delight of "45-million fans".
While the final outcome of the match in Paris tomorrow night may still be in doubt – with the unthinkable possibility of South Africa being beaten in the dying seconds of the game by a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal – the Springboks have already achieved more than we could ever have hoped before they set off for Paris.
The excitement that has swept the country since the semi-final win over Argentina and in the build-up to the final over the past week has had very little to do with the game tomorrow night or even rugby itself – it’s been about an entire nation being brought together to support a team that in every respect is universally regarded as being representative of the country.
While victory over England will entitle us to lay claim to being rugby champions of the world, a win will remind us for only the second time in our short history of democracy that we are a country of "winners".
If the nation’s dreams and wishes are fulfilled tomorrow night, it’s going to be interesting to see how long it takes before the euphoria is destroyed by the bureaucratic bungling of rugby administrators and politicians.
Here’s hoping that our "date with destiny" in Paris tomorrow night will extend far beyond an all-too-brief and wild celebration of a sporting triumph.
– David Bryant