I can’t still believe I’m a World Cup winner, Mapimpi says as Boks arrive home
Joahnnesburg - A jovial and excited Rugby World Cup winning Springbok squad arrived back in South Africa from Japan on Tuesday night with now two-time winner Frans Steyn calling the 2019 squad “a special group of players.”
The Boks beat England 32-12 in an emphatic showing in the final in Yokohama on Saturday to add to the titles they won in 1995 and 2007. Steyn was a member of the Jake White-coached squad 12 years ago.
“In 2007 when we won I didn’t quite realise what it meant for South Africa. But now that I’m older I realise what it means for the country. It’s been a privilege to be part of two World Cup winning squads and both campaigns were quite emotional for me. But this team, of 2019, is a special team, a special group of players,” said the big centre.
“We all have our own history to tell, about where we come from and grew up. I am thankful for the opportunity coach Rassie Erasmus and everyone else gave me to be a part of this.”
Steyn added he sensed there was something unique brewing in the Boks squad the very first week he joined the group from France, where he plays his club rugby. “I realised in that first week there was a vibe in the squad. I could see it at training and in the way certain structures were put in place. It was amazing. I got excited and hoped I’d make the final squad. I was lucky enough to do so.”
Steyn, who is only 32 years old, joked he might still be around for a fourth World Cup in four years time. On a more serious note, he said he hoped the Boks’ winning the World Cup could contribute in some positive way to making South Africa a better place.
“We all know what the state is of our country,” he said. “If we could give a glimmer of hope, even if only by one percent, to help get us back on track, we’d have done our jobs.”
Star wing Cheslin Kolbe, who scored the Boks’ second try in the final after busting through the tackle of England captain and the much bigger Owen Farrell, explained size had never been an issue for him in a game that appears to be better suited to bigger, stronger men.
“The game is for every shape and size,” said Kolbe. “It’s never mattered to me what your size is or what you weigh. I’m a firm believer that if you have the right attitude and heart, you can achieve anything.”
Kolbe added some good advice from his dad in his younger days had helped make him the player he is today. “He told me that because I was smaller than most kids I’d have to work that one percent harder than the others. I’ve always done that. Also, I’ve always seen the bigger boys as an opportunity to prove people wrong ... and anyway, there are always ways to get around players and bring them down. It’s all about believing in yourself, having the right mindset and playing for the guy next to you and for the green and gold.”
Wing mate Makazole Mapimpi, who scored the Boks’ first try on Saturday after linking nicely with Lukhanyo Am, said he still couldn’t quite believe he was a World Cup winner. “It’s amazing, I’m so proud,” he said with a big smile. “I don’t have a lot of words ... I couldn’t believe I was picked for the Springboks and now I can’t still believe I’m a World Cup winner.”
World Rugby Player of the Year, Pieter-Steph du Toit, called the last few months “an unbelievable experience” and also said he felt proud of his “unbelievable achievement” in being named world’s best player.
“I now have to set new goals though. I can’t stand still. We’ve got the British and Irish Lions in two years time and I believe if we maintain our consistency we’ll be able to do a good job there, too.”
The Boks start their four-province “Champions Tour” to show off the Webb Ellis Cup and thank their fans with a trip through the streets of Pretoria, Joburg and Soweto on Thursday. They’ll then move on to Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London and Cape Town.