The nation’s backing for the Boks - despite the team’s exit from the Rugby World Cup at the quarter-final stage – was commended by the Executive Council (Exco) of the South African Rugby Union (SARU).
The Exco met for the first time since the tournament on Thursday and welcomed South Africans’ unequivocal support for the team.
“The backing the team received from the public as well as from civil society and corporate South Africa was humbling in the extreme,” said Mr Oregan Hoskins, president of SARU.
“I know that the squad was bowled over by the level of support they received and took very seriously the duty to live up to people’s hopes and dreams.
In the end we fell short, but the reception the team received on their return, and the messages of support that flooded in, were extraordinary.
“On behalf of the Springboks and all involved with SARU, I’d like to express our deepest gratitude to all of South Africa for the support our team received during the season and tournament. It underlined once again the hold that the Springboks have over the imagination of South Africa.”
Tens of thousands of people packed into Sandton to say farewell to the team on its departure and thousands more packed into OR Tambo International Airport to greet the team on their return – despite the disappointment of failing to reach the semi-finals.
“The crowd scenes that surrounded the players were unprecedented,” said Mr Hoskins. “The Springboks have always been the No 1 priority of SARU and if anyone ever had any doubt about their importance they were dispelled by the public reception of the team.
“The role our government played in that support was very important and we would like to thank President Zuma, deputy president Motlanthe and the minister for Sport and Recreation, Mr Fikile Mbalula, for leading the clarion calls.
“Thank you once again, South Africa. We’re looking forward to 2012 and sending out a Springbok team of which you can once again be proud.”