Lightning strikes twice: The 2007 rugby world cup and memories of a South African rainbow nation

Botma G.J. (2010)


This article deals with the shifting media discourses of nationalism in the South African media in relation to two victories in the Rugby World Cup (RWC) tournaments in 1995 and 2007 respectively. Through an analysis of discourse in three mainstream daily newspapers, the article seeks to establish how media attention to the South African team's performance in the 2007 RWC articulated changing notions of nationhood. While the dominant discourse in 1995 was that of reconciliation and the 'rainbow nation', played out on the rugby field, nationalism in 2007 seemed to be defined more in terms of 'Africanness' and transformation. The article maps this shift from 'rainbow nation' to 'Africanness' by examining key issues and topics that featured in three local mainstream newspapers in 2007, using theoretical concepts from Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu. The argument is that commentators in the mainstream press were unable to move beyond their divisive discourses, even when evidence to the contrary emerged in the form of inclusive fever-pitch grass root support for the Springboks during RWC 2007. In closing, it is argued that the gap between popular perception/actions and political discourse in the media can be explained in terms of the fact that in the media rugby has become a symbol of the failure of the 'nation-building' rhetoric in the discourse of the African Renaissance. © Unisa Press.

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