JOHANNESBURG – Excitement levels are sky-high in the Springbok camp after Monday's Rugby World Cup squad was announced at Multichoice City in Johannesburg.
For many, it is a dream come true and now they cannot wait for the team to depart to the Far East for the biggest showpiece in world rugby.
The team flies out on Friday morning.
Handré Pollard will be heading to his second World Cup after he was one of the younger players in the 2015 squad.
Now boasting 41 caps and 381 Test points, Pollard is not only one of the generals in the backline, but also one of the most experienced squad members.
“Even though I now know what to expect, the excitement levels are still the same,” said Pollard. “We know we have a bit battle coming our way and that it’s going to be tough, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Speaking on the experience he’s gained in the last four years, Pollard said: “I’m probably a bit better prepared because of that, and I’m fortunate that I now have a few more years of Test rugby behind me, as do many other players in the squad. Even though my role has probably changed a bit and I’m one of the more senior players, it’s impossible not to get excited about playing in a World Cup and I would still like to bring some energy to the squad.”
For Makazole Mapimpi, donning his green and gold braided blazer with the words “Springbok RWC 2019” on the pocket, is a dream come true.
The quiet wing from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape has done a fair bit of travelling in the last couple of years, from East London to Bloemfontein and Durban, but for now, Japan is on his radar.
“I’d say I probably started dreaming about this day way back in 2016 when I was still playing for the Border Bulldogs in East London,” Mapimpi said. Then, when I made my Vodacom Super Rugby debut in 2017 (for the Isuzu Southern Kings), I realised I can take the step forward and perhaps make it to Springbok level if I work hard.”
His Springbok debut came in 2018, against Wales in Washington DC, and Mapimpi has since gone on to score five tries in seven Tests for the Boks.
“I’m excited and nervous to be here, but I’m looking forward to going to Japan,” he said. “I would like to thank everyone that sent me messages of support from back home and everywhere else. I’m grateful to my family for believing in me, and to all South Africans who believe in me, I really appreciate it.”
Lood de Jager will also be heading to his second Rugby World Cup, but the big lock almost missed out after a serious shoulder injury ruled him out of most of Vodacom Super Rugby this year.
He said the Boks are “desperate” to do well in Japan and can’t wait to board the plane to the Far East on Friday.
“It’s always a big honour to be selected to represent your country at the World Cup and it’s something I’m really looking forward to – there are exciting times ahead,” said the big, bearded lock.
“To be honest, I never had any negative thoughts when I was injured – I merely focused on recovering and getting back on the field, and giving myself a chance to make the RWC squad. Luckily I made it.”