By Alyssia Birjalal
M-Net’s five-part documentary, “Chasing the Sun” about the Springboks’ momentous journey to winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan is a personal, poignant and sensitively told story.
Behind the scenes is director Gareth Whitaker who scrambled through thousands of hours of footage for months on end to get to the heart of what is seen in each episode.
“Filming started 18 months prior to the 2019 world cup with cameras following the team daily. There were thousands of hours of footage to watch and it took six months to string together to create this important story,” said Whitaker.
A story of a diverse team and country who stood together to achieve the unachievable.
“There are a few plots but I think the story arc is transformation. It starts with the Springboks losing 57-0 and then they had 18 months to change.
“They had the ability to do this and bring smiles on the faces of millions of South Africans. They did this through transformation… change,” he said.
Whether the Springboks went on to lose the World Cup instead, Whitaker says the documentary would have still been made and aired.
“It’s such an important story for this country. When we come together we can do anything.
“The Springboks needed a boost and our diverse country gave them that. It’s not a sports documentary but a human documentary and that’s the story we told, so whether we won or lost didn’t matter. This documentary would have still been made,” said Whitaker.
He said throughout the process there were many challenges and over time he became a problem solver.
“At the start we agreed on certain principles and one was to capture the story authentically.
“Which I think we did. And like any long term project there will be challenges but after a while of solving these challenges you just get into it and start to enjoy it. And at the end it was all worth it,” he said.
One of the main takeaways Whitaker wants is for viewers is to learn from the various leaders in this team.
“Personally I feel it gives one an unbelievable sense of hope and people must feel that too. They can even shed a tear or two.
“But the best part for me is the ability to learn. Learn from Siya (Kolisi) about leadership or Rassie (Erasmus) who points them in the right direction.
“And even how to cope with failure and bounce back to become victorious,” he said.
This must-watch five-part docuseries was made in collaboration with the Springboks, SuperSport and SA Rugby. It offers in-depth conversations and insider information from the coaches, players and supporters.
“Chasing the Sun” is no ordinary story, it is one about changing fortunes and changing mindsets, about pressure and hope, about recognising the power of inspiration and learning what representation truly means.