Rainbow warriors answer the rallying call

The Cup is far, far more than a sporting festival Tim Glover, in Pretoria, finds
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The Independent Online
The images are in colour but the subjects are invariably black and white. There's President Mandela, in a silk and green shirt that has native Africa printed all over it, shaking hands with the Springbok captain, Francois Pienaar, in green blazer, red and green tie. For the time being at least, the Rainbow Nation, as Mandela referred to it at the moving opening ceremony, is going through the spectrum.

There's Pienaar again, this time in Parliament, with one arm around Deputy President F W de Klerk and another around the Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The politicians were clutching green and gold Springboks jerseys and, for the cameras, baring alarmingly white teeth. Archbishop Tutu spoke in Afrikaans. As the World Cup progressed he even suggested that the controversial Springbok emblem, seen by many blacks as a symbol of white supremacy, should be conserved. This was after the Springboks had visited the prison cell on Robben Island that had been Mandela's home for nearly three decades.

Before South Africa played Australia, Mandela spent 20 minutes with the team and recalled how he used to infuriate warders on Robben Island by supporting any country that was playing the Springboks. "This remarkable man," as Morne du Plessis, the manager of South Africa, described him, moved John Robbie to tears when he addressed the crowd at the opening game.

Robbie, a former Ireland scrum-half who toured South Africa with the Lions in 1980 when Mandela was still incarcerated, is now a broadcaster in South Africa and he wrote: "I find it very hard to come to terms with the fact that I played rugby over here. It was selfish and wrong. Rugby bolstered the regime."

Rugby is bolstering the new regime and the South African Broadcasting Corporation, once under the white umbrella of the government, will, by the end of the tournament, have been on the air for 66 hours and shown 32 matches to an estimated audience of three billion people in 125 countries. Despite the fact that tens of thousands of tickets were returned from overseas (42,000 were given to black schoolchildren) the organisers say that gross revenue has reached the target of R170m (pounds 30m).

The SARFU could kick Chester Williams. Williams, the only black man in the Springbok team, was the centrepiece of a huge Cup promotion campaign, and despite the fact that he has not played because of injury, his face is everywhere. The SARFU says that 40 per cent of World Cup profits will be used to improve township facilities. They would very much like another Chester Williams and Mandela has already said this will be the last of the "lilywhite" Springbok teams. As it is, under-17 and under-19 teams are selected on a compulsory 50 per cent white, 50 per cent black basis and the policy is to be extended to under-21 sides.

This smacks of "affirmative action," Mandela's approach at redressing the balance. Disaffected whites, especially the young, say they are being discriminated against on the grounds of colour and many of them are seeking work in Britain or America. In the streets you can be asked for money from an old black man or a young white girl. There is high unemployment, poverty is widespread and crime, poverty's brother in arms, is rampant.

A number of rugby correspondents here are having to file first-person pieces on how they were mugged and robbed. At the New Zealand-Wales match I sat next to a reporter from the Johannesburg Star who the previous day was walking to his car in the middle of the city when he was held up at knife-point and robbed. It was lunch-time. What is even worse is that he had just been to his office to collect his expenses. A New Zealand writer was robbed at gun-point and hit on the forehead with the butt of the gun. It happened in the reception area of a high security building called Royal Executive Apartments in a suburb of Johannesburg. A man from the Times, London, was also accosted and deprived, not of his purse, but of his swimming trunks.

While a front page lead in a newspaper here would read: "Early to bed for the Boks", and would tell you exactly what the South Africans had to eat, a story about how 2,000 policemen had been arrested in the last six months for offences ranging from extortion to rape and murder, was buried on page three. Against this background Rugby World Cup Ltd took a big gamble in staging the competition in South Africa and, despite the odds, it looks like paying off.

Security for the teams and at the stadiums is remarkably tight. Police in armoured vehicles, police on horseback, police with dogs. Body searches are common, in order, as the head of security put it, "to deter people from carrying oranges or firearms." Spectators are warned that if they are seen throwing oranges they will be ejected from the ground.

In some areas players and spectators are firmly advised not to leave their hotels at night. If they insist on doing so they will be accompanied by a security man. Not all squads have been confined to in-house entertainment. Scotland have been based in Pretoria, the Jacaranda City, and there the "curfew" does not apply.

Unlike England, who, it seems, have yet to enter into the spirit of the tournament, the Scots are free on certain nights to mix with supporters in bars and restaurants. There is no alcohol ban on the squad, who have also enjoyed the company of wives and girlfriends, courtesy of the Scottish Rugby Union. "Fair play," said Doug Morgan, the coach, "it's a generous gesture." No such luxuries for the Welsh or the Irish. As for the All Blacks, the thought would never cross their minds.

Craig Joiner, a student at Heriot-Watt University and at 21 the baby of the Scottish party, is in his first World Cup. "Everything is first class. The South Africans, who have been out of things for so long, have gone out of their way to make us welcome. I'm very impressed. The intensity of the competition is unlike anything I've ever experienced." Bill McLaren, "the voice of rugby" - he still is via Radio 5 even if he isn't going on about the Boks on the box - is on his third World Cup. "I'm amazed at the magnificence of the stadia," he said. "To stand in the middle of Ellis Park is breathtaking. Conditions for the players are excellent. Firm grounds, a dry ball. The opening ceremony was delightfully geared to youth and unity. It had a nice feel. Two hours before the kick- off Chester Williams appeared and the crowd clapped and clapped and clapped for ages. It seemed to be symptomatic of the dramatic change and the desire to make everything work. Compared to previous World Cups the teams are better prepared and I think people will say this was a tremendous venue. South Africa will be asked to house other world events. They're going to come out of this with flying colours. I'm just a bit unnerved at waking up to a blue sky every morning. I'm used to seeing swirling black clouds."

There is no comparison between the first World Cup, in New Zealand and Australia, and this. The stakes have been raised to a professional level and you only had to look at the faces of the Australian stand-off Michael Lynagh, or England's Rob Andrew, to appreciate the pressure the modern player is under.

Not everybody here is grabbed by the World Cup. At my hotel bar I met a relic of the old South Africa. He wanted to watch the Grand Prix racing on television but was outnumbered by blacks who wanted to watch a local football match.

"They're stuffing this country," he said, referring to the majority around him. "We showed we could live with sanctions." The white man, aged 92, was living in the past. His father, from Wrexham in north Wales, was a chef on an Australian liner that sank off Cape Town. He survived, prospered as a stonemason and built churches. His son, isolated, sad, bitter, had lost faith. He had no time for Mandela - "did you see what his shoes sold for, bloody ridiculous" - he just wanted to watch Damon Hill and he couldn't.

Outside, thousands of people were making their way to the Loftus Versfeld to watch Scotland play Tonga, and the Jacaranda City, which had been isolated, sad and bitter in the apartheid years, rejoined the Rainbow Nation.