Div, Smit "overwhelmed" with SA support

Friday, September 2, 2011
Kemantha Govender

Durban - South Africans showed their support for the Springboks when they turned out in their numbers to bid farewell to the defending champions who are en route to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup.

More than 36 000 supporters on Thursday crammed into Sandton and enjoyed performances from top South African music acts before getting a chance to interact with the 30-man squad and management.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and other government officials were also present at the "Fans Farewell".

Mbalula gave the Boks a vibrant pep talk and wished them well in New Zealand.

Bok coach Peter de Villiers and Captain John Smit admitted to being overwhelmed by the response of South Africans yesterday.

The Springboks spent 90 minutes taking the short walk from Nelson Mandela Square to the Sandton Gautrain Station, before travelling with schoolchildren, prize winners and VIP guests to OR Tambo International Airport.

De Villiers said the squad has been stunned by the reception and the weight of expectation had intensified accordingly. 

"I was always nervous of having a public send-off as we have not won anything to celebrate," said De Villiers. 

"But when you see how South Africa is rallying behind the Springboks you cannot but be humbled and grateful. This will be one of the most memorable days in the lives of all our squad and we can't help but take incredible energy from it," the coach added.

John Smit said he and the players were blown away by the reception.
"I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the players to all the people and celebrities who came out to say goodbye to us," said Smit. 

"We're just sorry that there may have been people who might not have been able to see the players because of the size of the crowd.

"But this was the culmination to an amazing few weeks - starting with the week we had in Port Elizabeth. Wherever we have gone people have been calling out, shaking hands, blowing their car horns and we've taken incredible energy from that.

"This squad places a lot of expectation on itself but it's obvious that South Africa doesn't just hope that we win this World Cup - they need us to win it."

The Boks will arrive in New Zealand at one minute to midnight on Friday night (New Zealand time).

The team begins their Rugby World Cup campaign against Wales in Wellington on 11 September. - BuaNews

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