Rugby has the chance to unify South Africa once again, writes Steve Scott

  • Video report by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott

While a team of giant, battle hardened warriors in green and gold stand between England and their second World Cup, there are actually two bigger enemies lurking.

The first is the challenge to replicate their sensational performance against the All Blacks.

Last Saturday was near perfect, every player enjoying a 10 out of 10 evening, the selection was spot on and the tactics faultless.

The scoreboard masked the true story – by reputation invincible - New Zealand were destroyed by England. Blown away.

Secondly, many of England’s stars were unknown to the All Blacks, that is not the case with the Springboks, many of whom earn their rugby corn in England.

South Africa will not be taken by surprise, they know what’s coming, England will have to adapt again.

Stopping South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk will be one of many key battles. Credit: AP

By the same token, England will know exactly what’s coming, too. The Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has already said as much, so expect more of the same.

More muscle-fuelled charges up front, supplemented with bombs to chase, all launched by the diminutive blond terrier Faf de Klerk.

Pretty it won’t be, and Daley, Watson and May will be very busy, mostly looking skywards.

SA captain Siya Kolisi is looking to emulate Francois Pienaar in 1995, with Nelson Mandela. Credit: PA/AP

Victory for both teams would of course be hugely significant but for South Africa, the ripples would spread far wider and far deeper.

The image of Siya Kolisi, the Springboks first black captain holding the Webb Ellis trophy aloft would arguably surpass the unforgettable moment when Nelson Mandela, wearing the number 6 jersey, handed the same prize to Francois Pienaar in 1995.

In the decades before that moment, black South Africans considered the green and gold of the Springboks as the uniform of the enemy.

  • Ex-SA winger Bryan Habana reflects on the impact of the 1995 World Cup win and the moment Nelson Mandela wore the Springbok jersey

Mandela used to sit in his cell on Robben Island, listening to rugby commentaries on a radio, praying they’d get beaten.

His genius that day at Ellis Park was to turn a hated symbol into something that united the country. That was the Mandela way.

SA prop Tendai “the Beast” Mtawarira spoke to me of the importance of diversity of this side, lead by Kolisi.

He said: "I think it's very important that the team is well represented.

"I think it's something that [coach] Rassie (Erasmus) addressed right at the onset - he pretty much said we needed a team of great balance and I think we have achieved that."

I was at that remarkable final in 1995 and witnessed Mandela’s presence prompt the almost exclusively white, largely Afrikaans crowd into spontaneously chanting his name.

It was a day of incalculable optimism for the new rainbow nation.

That it did not lead to the permanent social and political change Mandela had intended, is a conversation for another time.

It’s taken them 24 years but South Africa now stands on the brink of creating another unifying moment and another opportunity for change.