Boks get a real Maori reception

2011-09-10 18:04

A mixture of cultures,a traditional Maori greeting and a typical South African feast that included biltong, boerewors, potjiekos and pap welcomed the Springboks to New Zealand.

These were just a few of the highlights of my first week here in the New Zealand capital ahead of rugby’s biggest showpiece, which kicked off with the spectacular opening ceremony on Friday morning followed by the opening match between the All Blacks and Tonga that evening.

The Boks were given a rousing reception in Wellington during a walk-about through the city on Monday.

The Springboks, who are staying in the Intercontinental Hotel, walked along the city’s Waterfront area where fans, school children and onlookers lined the route to the Te Papa Museum, a well-known landmark in the city.

The ‘Boks were then honoured in traditional Maori fashion at a welcoming ceremony in the museum, where they were presented with small gifts and caps.

During their lunch break after the ceremony they worked the crowds waiting for them outside, posing for photos and signing autographs. Judging by the many Afrikaans voices among those present it was clear many were expatriates and tourists among the spectators.

The hospitality of the city was tangible and while there were much bantering about who was going to win the coveted Webb Ellis Cup, the spirit especially on the city streets, was congenial and friendly.

The South African ministry of sport then hosted the official opening of the Ekhaya Hospitality Centre at the Amora Hotel near the Wellington Waterfront on Tuesday.

About two hundred expatriates, ­ex-South Africans, diplomats and interested New Zealanders attended the event. Several personnel from the Springbok management camp were present, including Bok coach Peter de Villiers.

The SA minister of sport Fikile Mbalula said Ekhaya was launched to be a home away from home for South Africans. He said that it would not only provide South Africans with a place to share their experiences of New Zealand, but also to network for the duration of the World Cup.

“If we lose, this is where we will share our tears and sorrow and if we win, this is where we will open the champagne,” he said.

“This is our home away from home and where we re-energise – out base camp. There’s biltong, boerewors, potjie-kos and pap here.”

Minister Mbalula spoke about the “upcoming battles” the Springboks faced and encouraged them with rousing metaphors.

“As een wen, wen ons almal,” he said to much applause.

On Friday the Te Papa Museum hosted a South Africa national day with music and dance. The Springboks had an autograph signing session in the afternoon before resting yesterday for today’s big clash with Wales.

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