The Springboks, world rugby champions returning to South Africa, began a four-day tour across the country in Pretoria on Thursday to celebrate their victory. They were hailed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as players who had “gone into legend”.
With gold medals around their necks, the players arrived at government headquarters in the capital aboard a yellow open-top bus and exchanged a handshake with the president.
“Saturday evening, you left the field of victory and entered into legend,” congratulated Mr. Ramaphosa, who this week declared December 15 a public holiday to mark their triumph, obtained last weekend in Saint -Denis, near Paris, against New Zealand in the final (12-11).
“You have lifted the morale of an entire nation and filled us with pride. You have united the people of South Africa,” he added.
In the morning, the streets of Pretoria were filled with spectators who came to greet their new national heroes, who won the fourth world title in the country's history, a record. Rugby is one of the most popular disciplines in the southern African country.
“We are from very diverse origins, like you. And we wanted to show that diversity is our strength,” underlined Siya Kolisi, first black captain of the Springboks, who dedicated the cup to the “people of South Africa”.
Also read: Siya Kolisi, captain of South Africa: “The course was more difficult than four years ago”
For 90 years, Springbok selectors only chose white players, with black and mixed-race athletes confined to separate leagues. This situation slowly evolved after the end of apartheid, with Nelson Mandela winning the team in 1995, the year of their first world title.
This victory “reminded us that even in the face of our many challenges, there is always room for optimism and hope,” said Mr. Ramaphosa, referring to a country struggling with an economic and social climate. gloomy, endemic unemployment and ever-increasing inequalities.
The Springboks then travel to Johannesburg and Soweto, before heading to Cape Town on Friday, Durban (east) on Saturday and East London (south-east) on Sunday.
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