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Stormers players’ magic with young fans melts hearts worldwide

Ruhan Nel of Stormers receives his winners medal during after United Rugby Championship final win against the Bulls. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Ruhan Nel of Stormers receives his winners medal during after United Rugby Championship final win against the Bulls. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published Jun 25, 2022

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Cape Town - The United Rugby Championship (URC) and SA Rugby pulled off a stroke of marketing genius by using primary school children to do the post-match medal presentation in front of 31 000 spectators at the DHL Stadium in Green Point.

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Straight afterwards, the videos of the presentation went viral on social media platforms. It became an internet sensation and attracted thousands of views from admirers around the world.

Initially, the children stood on a ladder to present the championship-winning Stormers players with a winner's medal and a cap. However, four or five presentations later the pint-sized Stormers scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies discarded the ladder and merely bowed and allowed the boy to put the medal around his neck.

Next up was Stormers speedster, Seabelo Senatla, who went down on his knee to allow the little boy to do the honours, and then hugged the kid.

Several others also went down on their knees. including the 2m tall giant Stormers lock Marvin Orrie, who after receiving his medal, took off his scrum cap, and responded with a fine gesture by placing it on the youngster’s head.

Marlon Kruger, SA Rugby’s Senior Manager: Brand and Marketing, said the children had practised the routine before the match, to ensure they knew what to do. The URC had arranged for the transport and meals.

“The Vodacom URC prides itself on being different and using its platform to make an impact with new fan engagement and community outreach,” said Kruger. ”It is meant to be a proudly South African moment, a moment designed to break the mould.

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“The URC wanted a presentation away from the stereotypical formalities and demonstrate that rugby is at its best when it brings together people of all ages and backgrounds.

“The idea originated from the URC’s commitment to these principles. It is a league that unites players, fans and communities as one. SA Rugby’s marketing team share the same philosophies.

“We knew it would create some unique memories for the kids and might shake up the norm, but the reaction has been truly inspiring.

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“There has been an overwhelming response from around the rugby world. From Rugby TV programmes to international rugby podcasts picked up on it. The interaction between the kids and the Stormers players melted hearts around the world, and many were moved to tears.

“We even received a very heart-warming thank-you letter from DHL Stormers coach John Dobson who was very moved by the presentation.”

The other major player in the picture was Brad Bing and his organisation Sporting Chance. For more than three decades Bing has unselfishly been championing the cause of sports development in disadvantaged communities around the Western Cape.

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Since rugby has traditionally been a major attraction in Cape Town, Bing’s Sporting Chance Foundation treated hundreds of children to rugby at Newlands since 2014. He enjoyed a fine partnership with the Stormers sponsors DHL who provided 32 tickets, transport and meals on match days.

When WP Rugby’s headquarters moved to Green Point, the partnership continued. In the past few weeks, learners from Elsies River, Khayelitsha, Langa and Ocean View plus their educators were allowed to enjoy the ‘DHL stadium/Stormers experience’.

Bing said he had lined up learners from the Mokone Primary School in Langa to attend the final. However, he was also called by the Mayor of Cape Town’ s office and told that Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis would like the youngsters to be his guests at the final.

“As Sporting Chance has been working in Cape Town communities for the past 32 years, we have built up a working relationship with the City of Cape Town,” said Bing, adding that the kids were buzzing with excitement when told they would go on the field and hand over medals and caps to the winning team.

“When they first heard, the reaction was of great excitement. The kids were overjoyed,” said Bing.

“It took their breath away when we informed them that they would have the opportunity to go onto the field and personally hand over the medals and caps to the winners. As it turned out to be, it was their heroes, their favourite team.

“They received URC branded tops and you could see the anxious excitement and beaming smiles when they put these on and made their way onto the field.

“This was certainly a once-in-alifetime opportunity for these learners that they will never forget.

“A big thank you to SA Rugby, the Mayor and DHL for this great opportunity.”

“There are learners that are involved in rugby at the schools, but we also wanted to allow those that have not been exposed to the game of rugby.

“Through this, we have found that there becomes growing interest especially after attending live rugby games at this level.”

Bing said his organisation had placed trained sports coaches to implement the

Physical Education component of Life Skills and Life Orientation in community primary schools.

“One of these schools is Mokone Primary School where our coach Nyaniso Mhayi is based. When they attended the final they were accompanied by the sports co-ordinator, coaches and teachers from within the school.”

@Herman_Gibbs

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