Chasing the Sun 2 review: A Springboks fairytale that transcends sport as a symbol of hope, unity and South African-ness

Dylan Coetzee
Springboks players celebrate winning the Rugby World Cup.

Springboks players celebrate winning the Rugby World Cup.

What was once a symbol of division in South Africa has radically transformed into a beacon of hope, light, togetherness and a heart-racing example of the power of unity.

The mighty Springboks became the second team in history to defend a Rugby World Cup and the first ever to win four titles – a feat even more impressive when considering the South Africans did not compete in the first two editions. However, unlike any team before them, they opened their doors to the public eye with the gripping behind-the-scenes docuseries Chasing the Sun 2.

It follows the first edition of the series when the 2019 Springboks triumphed in Japan only this time it is far more raw, unfiltered and not only provides unprecedented insight into a rugby union high-performance environment but offers a snapshot of what it means to be a South African.

As a nation, South Africa is littered with issues ranging from corruption to poor governance to loadshedding and that is without even considering the oppressive socio-economic conditions the everyday citizen faces. Still, despite it all, what South Africans are most proud of is overcoming any hurdle in front of them to not just survive but thrive despite all the odds.

This Springboks team is the embodiment of that ethos.

Psychological warfare

Any player featuring in the knockout stages of a World Cup is of absolute quality and likely right up there with some of the best in the world, which is where incremental gains become that much more important.

The Springboks consistently searched for the extra 1% led by the expert psychological manipulation of then director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, who shapeshifted into a ruthless drill sergeant when required.

Some of Erasmus’ speeches could be cut straight from a Navy Seals training camp where he openly challenges the commitment of his players that from the outside looking in would never be questioned.

“You pretend that you would die for your country but you will not,” Erasmus passionately told his players after their loss to Ireland and in the same breath called out the whole team’s ego headlined by declaring Siya Kolisi is not the biggest thing in South Africa.

The often cheerful skipper’s face hardened as Erasmus dressed him down and it would only get worse for Kolisi when the entire leadership group was temporarily removed from the plans going forward.

This psychological ploy almost goes against logic with the leadership group generally the anchor and security of the team. In reality, their places were not at great risk but rattling the cage forced the group to pull together and take ownership that ultimately proved crucial as they headed into the knockouts.

Erasmus employed the same tactic during the semi-final against England where he called the team “liars” at half-time for not keeping to their word and galvanised the team for a miraculous comeback.

It was not all shouting and swearing from the great tactician who picked his moments well to reinforce and encourage the team at appropriate points during the tournament. The unfiltered footage gives an amazing insight into the respect the players have for Erasmus as his group of warriors would run through walls for him. Cobus Reinach embodies this when he says he has “been selected to serve the team” after actually being left out of the squad for the final with his role then assisting with preparation.

The buy-in from the players coupled with the astute emotional management and psychological tactics showcase exactly why Erasmus was awarded an honorary doctorate in coaching science from North-West University earlier this year.

Bokrometer: 11 hopefuls who pressed for Springbok call ups, including a rampaging rookie lock

Coaching detail, innovation and risk

While the psychological state of the players contributes to the extra gains it is the detail of coaching that was almost beyond belief, which is where Felix Jones absolutely threw his name in lights.

The now England assistant coach was a constant voice of analysis whether it is from finding YouTube clips to finding patterns and/or kinks in opposition gameplay. His reasoning for the controversial 7-1 split on the bench for the final played a big role in the tactic actually being used in rugby’s biggest game. Jones will forever be hailed as a key part of the set-up.

Innovation and risk often go hand in hand with that being the case for the Springboks when they called up Handre Pollard as a hooker replacement for Malcolm Marx – one of the boldest decisions in World Cup history that paid off brilliantly.

That decision probably falls second on the risk list behind deploying a 7-1 split in the final, which showcased the South African’s willingness to push the boundaries to achieve an elevated result.


It was not just the psychological warfare or tactical nous of the Springboks that got them over the line, it was also their status in South African society that powered the team’s why.

In South Africa rugby is much more than a sport it verges on religion intertwined in just about every citizen’s life at some stage, particularly during a World Cup.

The Springbok was almost abolished in days gone as it was a symbol of apartheid but instead, Nelson Mandela used the team to unify the nation as he believed only sport could bringing to mind his famous quote:

“Sports have the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope, where there was once only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination. Sports is the game of lovers,” Mandela’s quote reads.

That did not mean everything was dandy with the team undergoing radical changes as transformation was pushed resulting in a crash of the Springboks’ fortunes after the 2015 World Cup.

It was never transformation as a concept that was the cause of the drop but perhaps the implementation. That was until Erasmus and his right hand man Jacques Nienaber turned this tense topic into a strength.

The power of diversity in unity is the overwhelming cornerstone of this Springboks team that represents much of the nation. The ability for fans to relate to the upbringing of the national players is where the ownership and belief is born. When Nienaber passionately declared that all his players wrote their own scripts to reach the World Cup final it gives hope to those in the same position as a young Kolisi or Cheslin Kolbe or Pieter-Steph du Toit.

The success of this team as depicted by Chasing the Sun is based on the African philosophy of Ubuntu which means ‘I am because you are’. It is the togetherness regardless of skin colour, background or beliefs that makes the team a band of unlikely brothers, a band of unlikely heroes.

Final verdict

Chasing the Sun 2 is not only the greatest rugby documentary in history but it transcends the game by encapsulating everything it means to be South African. It is a story of hope laced with fear, turmoil and struggle trumped by the sheer refusal to give up and accept a negative outcome.

A remarkable story is only made powerful through effective storytelling. Much of African history has been told through a foreign lens and Chasing the Sun 2 is a prime example of a proud African story being told by proud African people.

Chasing the Sun 2 is South Africa and South Africa lives and breathes in Chasing the Sun 2.

READ MORE: Springboks to face every home nation in 2024 with November Tests officially confirmed