Bok-Tonga post-match prayer huddle goes viral

Springbok and Tonga players pray together after their match last Sunday

A video of a rare moment in world rugby — when Springbok and Tonga players huddled together in a circle and then knelt and prayed together after their bruising pool match last Sunday — has touched millions of people on social media and even non-believers were positively moved.

The 49-18 Springbok victory which put the defending champions on the brink of the Rugby World Cup semi-final in France belies Tonga’s spirited play which kept the Boks on their toes for 80 gruelling minutes.

After the game the players on both sides showed respect for one another, exchanging jerseys and gathering in a circle holding on to each other. And they showed their shared respect of their King, Jesus, by kneeling, bowing their heads and praying as music played around them in the stadium in Marseille.

Social media can be a harsh place and so it was heartening not to see a lot of nasty comment on the players’ public post-match prayer. Here are a few comments I spotted that run contrary to the norm:

I’m not religious, but I’d have bent a knee with those okes.

Same, not religious myself but got a lot of respect for this

I’m agnostic and I think this is beautiful

Meanwhile Premier Christian News reports that the Fijian rugby union team’s Head of Athletic Performance has told a press conference that the team’s high performance strategy is based on “principles that are all in the Bible.”

Naca Cawanibuka’s comments come during the Rugby World Cup in France, where Fiji have all but confirmed their place in only their second ever Quarter Final, after a first victory over Australia in 69 years.

After the famous win, Fiji centre and Man of the Match Joshua Tuisova used a post match interview to “first of all give back the glory and the honour to the Lord God Almighty for giving us the strength and the power.” He also thanked “family at home for their prayers and support”.

Cawanibuka, who helped coach the Fijian sevens team to back-to-back Olympic golds in Rio 2016 and Tokyo in 2021, has suggested that while most teams practice sports psychology, the Flying Fijians draw “big power” through “faith”, “the Bible” and “belief in a god”.

“When you look at high performance sport, it’s all the principles and the values that are outlined in the Bible. When you talk about honesty, talk about diligence, talk about persistence, resilience, hard work, rebound ability, you know, having mental focus, having team unity. And it’s a brotherhood when love comes in.”

Cawanibuka, a former high school teacher, has described four pillars that define the team’s day to day behaviours, all of which he says are “biblically based”. They are honesty, discipline, consistency and enjoyment.

“What we’ve done with a lot of messaging is to align the messages from the Bible to specific real behaviours we can see on a daily basis, because (in rugby) we are measured by not what we say but what we do, and we’re trying to build this amongst our officiant, brotherhood. And not only that, but they also symbols of modelling to the younger generation.”

Cawanibuka’s father Alifereti is a former Fiji national coach in volleyball, athletics and rugby sevens. When it comes to the spiritual and psychological side of coaching the rugby team, he describes it as applying Biblical lessons, that have been ingrained in Fijians since childhood, to sporting performance.

“Having honesty amongst you, and strong discipline, all those principles are all in the Bible. And these boys have heard it from a young age, the thing that’s been missing is how you actually highlight it so you bring those words to come alive in action. And what we’ve driven at Drua (Fiji’s new club side) and even now hear within the Flying Fijians, is to do what we say, and to live our values to live our principles.”

Cawanibuka says the biblical nature of the values that underpin the team’s methods marks out their environment, identity and strength from their rivals.

“There’s a bigger life off the field where these values and principles become very important. Because it takes you to beyond rugby when you pull off the jersey and hang your boots. And that’s something that makes the rugby programme here very special.”

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One Comment

  1. Suzette van Rooyen

    What an amazing example of unity. May it take place in South Africa as well. Well done Boks. We are proud of you.