On the bus | Siya and his rockstar Boks emptying the tank to unite SA

Springbok trophy tour on Johannesburg (Lloyd Burnard)
Springbok trophy tour on Johannesburg (Lloyd Burnard)

Johannesburg - Four imposing buildings stand alongside each other in the bustling Johannesburg CBD to form FNB's Bank City, leaving a large open square on the streets.

It was there where thousands of South Africans waited, some from as early as 09:00, to catch a glimpse of their returning Springbok heroes and the Webb Ellis Cup on Thursday.

"If we're going to all just stand here watching, we should be taking a day's leave," one employee, only half-joking, uttered.

His suggestion didn't bring as much as a glance from his colleagues, who were using what little time they had away from their desks and meetings to soak up everything happening below.

The Boks were supposed to arrive at 14:00, but eventually got there at 15:00. It didn't matter.

Security earned their money, with a flimsy tape erected as a barrier to create a space for the bus to move never standing a chance.

At around 14:20, the crowds swelled and found their voice as somebody spotted a bus coming down Simmonds Street.

Almost instantly, excitement turned to hysteria, which was followed by a collective groan as everybody realised that what they thought was the Bok bus was instead a yellow commercial carrier that turned obliviously away from Bank City.

When the topless, green and gold Bok bus did finally appear, it was worth the wait.

Captain Siya Kolisi, in the distance, launched the Webb Ellis Cup skywards, pumping up the crowd with his free hand.  

The Bok bus arrives (Lloyd Burnard)

The Bok bus finally arrives ...

It had become clear that the four Boks Johannesburg wanted to see most were Kolisi, Tendai Mtawarira, Lukhanyo Am an Makazole Mapimpi.

Mapimpi's name was greeted with high-pitched screams every time it was mentioned over the loudspeaker. He is South Africa's superstar.

As the bus crawled its way to the square through the mob, where police bikes revved in celebration to the point where one motorcycle cut out in a cloud of smoke, Kolisi moved everyone from the verge of tears to carnival-like celebration when he broke down to Mandoza's Nkalakatha.

In that moment, as like in so many other moments since Saturday's glorious triumph in Japan, South Africa celebrated together.

Kolisi, a black man who came from nothing, is the leader of this pack. That is becoming clearer with every public appearance as the country falls more and more in love with him.

His status has skyrocketed, but his feet are firmly on the ground.

I asked him later in the evening how many photographs he thinks he's posed for since Saturday. 

"Thousands," he replied.

If anyone has the grace to deal with this level of new-found superstardom, it is Kolisi. 

With the security tape strewn on the floor along with the green and gold confetti that had been blasted all over the Boks, South Africans were closer to their heroes than they could ever have dreamed.

On the drive through the CBD, the Boks were swamped by supporters all the way.

Before that, they had spent the morning in Pretoria and at Loftus Versfeld and they finished up in Soweto as the sun set.

Their flight out of Johannesburg to Durban was delayed, because they simply weren't done yet.

The Boks get one crack at celebrating this moment with their people, and they will do it properly.

When Kolisi and his Boks finally got on their chartered flight, aptly named flight SAF3212 as a tribute to their winning scoreline in the World Cup final, they were visibly shattered.

Siya Kolisi leaves Johannesburg (Lloyd Burnard)

Kolisi boards the plane after the Johannesburg leg of the tour ...

This group has been going non-stop for two straight months, and now that they are world champs there is no rest at all.

Even at the private Fireblade Aviation facility outside OR Tambo, away from the public eye, Kolisi, Am and Mapimpi were asked to pose for selfies by airport staff in high-vis vests working on the ground.

Kolisi, every time, is happy to oblige.

Kolisi poses with airport staff (Lloyd Burnard)

Kolisi gets up for another fan photograph after a long day in Johannesburg ...

On the plane, eyes started to close as the rockstar Boks looked to get in a quick hour of sleep before landing in the Zulu Kingdom.

Kolisi, though, was wide awake. He is a bundle of energy, on top of the world and feeding off the relentless high that accompanies him everywhere he goes.

"I don't know how we're still going ... it's like the adrenaline takes over," fullback Willie le Roux told me on the walk to baggage claim after landing at King Shaka International.

But then, after a short pause, life returned to his eyes as he reflected and offered: "It's just been amazing".

The Boks, looking as battered and bruised as they would be after a Test match, had to get up for one more push.

A large group of Durban fans had been waiting at arrivals, and airport staff had not expected such a turnout.

Because of the Bok delays on the trophy tour in Johannesburg, these fans had been waiting for hours - some of them spilled outside in a thunderstorm that had stalled the Bok landing - to welcome their champions to KZN.

Kolisi, video calling his family back home, said his 'I love you's' and 'goodnights', put his phone back in his pocket and took a deep breath in preparation for another moment of pure South African euphoria.

Nobody celebrates like South Africans and Durban, like everywhere else, erupted in uncontrollable joy.

The players and management are running on empty, but they will keep going until the end of this tour.

Friday is Durban, Saturday is East London, Sunday is Port Elizabeth and after Monday in Cape Town, these heroes can finally put their feet up.

But to Kolisi, Rassie Erasmus and this special group of players, giving back to their country and creating moments of hope like this are more important than anything they have achieved on a rugby field.

This is about unity, and as Kolisi said in his post-match interview after the final on Saturday, that "we can achieve anything if we pull together".

Fans at King Shaka (Lloyd Burnard)

Fans waiting to greet the Boks at King Shaka ... (All pics by Lloyd Burnard).

*** Lloyd Burnard is travelling with the Springboks on their 2019 World Cup trophy tour as a guest of FNB …

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