Taupo – The Springbok rugby team were pleasantly surprised on Monday when nearly 500 people turned up at a very wet Owen Delaney Park in Taupo to watch them train.
“We had great support at training today, it feels like home here,” prop CJ van der Linde said after the team’s first field session following last week’s 49-3 victory over Fiji in Wellington.
“There are some beautiful rivers and some nice golf courses so it looks like a really nice town.”
The crowd that braved the miserable conditions consisted mainly of expats who have settled in the pristine tourist driven town situated in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island.
There were also a number of school children while, on the other side of the age spectrum, numerous residents of local the retirement villages also showed that they are embracing the World Cup.
A Springbok training session would, however, not be complete without a few die-hard fans who made the trip from South Africa to support their team.
Standing out in the bunch was Andre Botha of Pretoria who had to make special arrangements to bring a life-size Bakkies Botha poster with him.
Despite the un-South African like weather, Botha served about the New Zealand experience.
“We are here for the pool games and we are very happy with what we have seen so far, and we are sure the Boks will go all the way,” said the warmly dressed Bok fan.
South African Rugby Union (Saru) CEO Jurie Roux confirmed that the great turn-out at training was not something the team had anticipated. “We were actually quite surprised at the amount of people that came out on such a cold and rainy day,” said Roux.
One of the reasons why the team had selected Lake Taupo as their base was because of the more relaxed environment.
Then there is also the theory that the team’s golf enthusiast put forward the venue because of four outstanding courses that are in close proximity to their hotel.
Another possible drawing card could be the fact that trout fishing is one of the area’s main attracting – making it heaven on earth for utility forward Willem Alberts.
“This week might be a bit busy for trout fishing, but mabee next week when we come back there might be some time,” said the man who is almost as exited ahead of a fishing trip as he is before a Test match.
Roux highlighted that it was important for the team to make use of their time in Taupo to recharge ahead of some very important matches.
“It is actually a bit cold here, but the venue is in a beautiful setting so it provides is very relaxed environment which the players need, although you would not say it is that relaxed that when judging by the massive support the team had at training earlier.” – Sapa