A young boy’s enthusiasm for the Springboks and specifically his rugby hero, Eben ‘Elizabedi’ Etzebeth, made him steal the hearts of many South Africans.
Siya Dlamini (14), a grade 8 learner from Volksrust High School in Mpumalanga, is an ordinary teenager – but with a huge love for rugby.
The video, which spread like wildfire during the Rugby World Cup, shows the boy – dressed in green and gold – passionately and excitedly shouting “Elizabedi, Elizabedi, Elizabedi”, while the Springbok lock with the ball towards the posts run to seal the win against France in the quarter-finals.
Dlamini’s infectious enthusiasm – and the playful interpretation of Etzebeth’s name – made him a social media sensation overnight and finally brought him face to face with his rugby hero, the very Etzebeth.
Dlamini told RNews that in the moments – just before the video was taken of him – he was absolutely terrified that the Boks were going to lose the game against France.
“I was so scared. This game was absolutely nerve-wracking and I didn’t want the Springboks to lose, but then Etzebeth got the ball and he went straight to the posts to score the try – that’s when I screamed for ‘Elizabedi’,” he jokes. .
He says that his cousin took the video of him and that he didn’t even know that she shared it on social media.
“When I came to school the next day, everyone suddenly called me ‘Elizabedi’. I couldn’t understand it,” he laughs.
“Then one of my teachers showed me the video that spread like wildfire on social media overnight.”
He says that after the video attracted so much attention, he realized how one single action “performed with a pure heart” can unite the nation in so many ways.
And when the Springboks called his grandmother last Thursday to invite him to meet the team (and his rugby hero) in Cape Town, he couldn’t believe his ears.
“I was out of my skin happy; if you think I was excited and happy in the video, you should have seen me when I got the invite. I actually couldn’t believe that this was really happening to me.
“I come from a small town. Everyone is aware of how incredibly rare such an opportunity is and out of everyone who shared videos during the World Cup, the Springboks chose to invite and meet me.
“It made my whole year. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” he says excitedly.
“It was definitely not just luck, but a sign of God’s grace over my life. I feel so blessed and grateful for this life-changing moment.”
He says he didn’t think he would meet Etzebeth himself.
“When we arrived at the event, we looked for him everywhere, but we couldn’t see him anywhere. When we walked into the town hall to meet all the Bokke he wasn’t there either…”
He says he was surprised to find out later that his invitation was also a surprise for Etzebeth.
“I can’t describe how it felt when I suddenly turned around and my biggest hero came walking towards me. It was incredible. My heart was pounding and everything just really felt like a dream.”
He says the moment was so overwhelming that he can hardly remember what he and Etzebeth talked about.
“I just remember him telling me I changed his name,” laughs Dlamini.
When asked why Etzebeth stands out to him as a rugby hero, he says: “If I’m not mistaken, Etzebeth started playing rugby in the same year that I was born.
“For me it is something special to know. The bond I feel with him is more than a physical bond for me, it is an intimate bond that I myself cannot even describe.”
Siya plays flank and says his biggest dream is to one day also play rugby for the Springboks.
“I want so much – like Elizabedi – to be a rugby player that the nation can be proud of. I hope and pray that one day I will have the opportunity to be as dangerous as him on the rugby field.”