When the Springbok rugby team lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy for the first time in 1995, the words Amabokoboko were echoed throughout the streets of South Africa. A new brand symbolising champions and unity was born.
Unifying cultures and bringing people together is what Amabokoboko is all about. Amabokoboko is spirit, pure African spirit. In Afrikaans they call it gees, in Xhosa its moya. Here we like to call it Amabokoboko.
Amabokoboko – ‘the boks, the boks’ – first appeared on the front page of the daily newspaper Sowetan following the Springboks victory over Australia in the opening round of the 1995 World Rugby Cup.
Amabokoboko linguistically Africanised the Springbok and gave black people a stake in the team, writes Douglas Booth, Dean of the School of Physical Education at the University of Otago, in an academic study conducted one year after South Africa’s successful Rugby World Cup campaign in which former South African President Nelson Mandela iconically lifted the World Cup along with the then Springbok captain Francois Pienaar.
Booth, however warned that while Amabokoboko gives Africans a linguistic stake in rugby, real ownership and emotional buy-in into South African rugby would only truly become reality when Africans have a physical presence in the Springbok team.
This era has now arrived as a fully racially integrated South African rugby team won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. History has been made; the first black Springbok captain, the first try in a World Cup final was scored by a black Springbok.
The journey that was started in 1995 suddenly has so much more significance since 2 November 2019. South African rugby and netball plotted the way forward for other sporting codes and other countries on our continent.
Transformation of South African rugby and the growing acceptance of the Springbok emblem truly started during the 1995 World Cup when President Mandela asked the nation to embrace the national team.
It was an historic opportunity to break away from the past – to complete the symbolic journey from the old to the new. It created new symbols of hope for the country and its people.
When the word Amabokoboko appeared in the Sowetan, then a so-called ‘township newspaper’, the word “bok” had found its first acceptance in the townships. Today the Zulu word continues to unify a nation.
On the 18th of September, after the 1995 World Cup the Amabokoboko trade name and logo was registered over 11 classes of products and services.