The Springboks carried the hopes of 50 million South Africans on their shoulders, State President Jacob Zuma, told the 30-man squad and management during the team’s official send off to the Rugby World Cup at the President’s Guest House in Pretoria on Monday.
President Zuma and the minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, wished the team well for the seven week tournament, which begins on September 9. The team departs on Thursday with a Fans’ Farewell from Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton (from 15h30).
“This is a joyous occasion,” President Zuma told the squad, “to see our best citizens who belong to our national team – the Springboks – as they prepare to leave for New Zealand.
“We stand united at this very moment as a nation as we bid farewell to our Bokke, the world champions.
“Remember that you have a huge responsibility. You carry on your shoulders the dreams and aspirations of the whole nation. We believe you can do it, you have what it takes. Go out there and do your best and your best is to bring the trophy back to Mzansi – that is your national duty.”
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said the team was honoured and humbled by the responsibility.
“It was a great privilege to be invited and for the President to take the time to send us off,” he said.
“It really brought home just how much the success of the Springboks has meant to our country over the years and how many hopes this team carries to New Zealand. It is very humbling to have the entire country united behind this small group of South Africans but we will do everything in our power to live up to their expectations.”