From Pretoria to Orlando, with Braamfontein and Randburg in between, supporters of the Rugby World Cup Champions, the Springboks, came out in their numbers to show appreciation and catch a glimpse of the South African sporting heroes.
With their five-day cup tour having begun at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday morning, the team were met and thanked by President Cyril Ramaphosa who said that their victory in Japan will still play an important part in “nation building and social cohesion.”
“Thank you for being the catalyst that can ensure that we continue to build our nation,” Ramaphosa said.
A stop at the MTN head offices, the team’s main sponsors, in Randburg saw fans and employees grace the area in their green and gold Springbok t-shirts, all ready and excited to welcome them.
One such individual was Thabisa Dlephu who works in the customer retention division.
She told City Press: “I have been working at MTN for ten years and I could not be prouder to have been a part of this moment.”
“The boys have done us proud and we thank them for their hard work.”
She added that “players like [Springbok captain] Siya Kolisi are an inspiration because I can relate to his life story. I know the life struggles he so often speaks of and for that, I want to thank him.”
MTN SA corporate affairs executive Jacqui O’Sullivan concurred with Dlephu as she told City Press that MTN could not be prouder.
“Apart from the amazing win by the Boks, the leadership that rugby has shown, the sense of team has been amazing,” she said.
O’Sullivan added that the team’s victory tour was to be an exciting one as the Boks headed to the streets of Braamfontein followed by a visit to Soweto.
As you drive into Soweto the streets are initially empty with only the sound of taxis hooting to attract customers. But, with the arrival of the champions, the township roared.
Unaware of the Boks’ scheduled visit to his home town of Diepkloof in Soweto, Tebogo Mika sits outside his yard with his friends as they discuss life’s hardships.
Asked about the imminent arrival of the Springboks he [in shock] leaps out of his chair and says: “I was not aware that the boys were coming to my hometown today. I am proud and excited.”
Mika tells City Press that he hopes the Boks’ win will encourage the relevant government departments to give more attention to “young kids in the townships who aspire to one day reach the same level as their heroes.”
From Diepklook, the Springboks went down Vilakazi Street and finally arrived to hundreds of eager fans outside Orlando Stadium. As the team approached the entrance, scores of fans ululated and sang in unison. However, this moment of celebration quickly turned to one of anger as fans were denied access into the stadium.
One such individual was 57-year-old Welhemina Mangole who was there with her grandson.
“I have been waiting here since half-past-twelve, to show support for the Springboks, but now we have been told we cannot go into the stadium,” she told City Press.
According to Mangole, the incident that “almost led to a stampede” was not what she “as an elderly woman expected, especially since fans were told about coming to see and support the Springboks.”
Having never lost in a final, this year’s win was the team’s third after being crowned champions in 1995 and 2007.
On Friday the team heads off to Durban, with visits to East London over the weekend and ending their tour in Cape Town on Monday.