The Boks are led by Siya Kolisi, who grew up in a township in the Eastern Cape and who had to watch John Smit’s side win the World Cup in 2007, also against England, in a tavern because his family didn’t own a TV.
Kolisi, who has become a symbol of hope and the poster boy of South African rugby, will have a special supporter in the crowd - his father, Fezakele, who travelled abroad for the first time to support him.
“I’m so happy we could organise for my dad to come over,” said the Bok skipper, who was set to play his 50th Test today.
“It’s his first time overseas. It’s the second time he’ll be watching me at a live game; the first time was my first game for the Boks. It’s good to have him here.”
Two years ago, the Boks were ranked seventh in the world and had lost some of their formidable aura, but today could mark a momentous turn-around in fortunes under the guidance of director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus.
One of the real gems in the Boks’ crown has been Cape-born hot-stepper Cheslin Kolbe.
He, along with Pieter-Steph du Toit, has been nominated for World Rugby’s Player of the Year award.
A sporting prodigy from the age of 12, Kolbe represented Western Province at junior and senior level. He also played for the Stormers before now plying his trade in France with Toulouse.
The 26-year-old was also a flyer for the Blitzboks on the Sevens circuit.
Samantha Vraagom, one of Kolbe’s neighbours from Scottsville, Kraaifontein, where he earned the nickname “Pikke”, described him as a very humble person: “He basically grew up in front of me. When he was a little boy he always used to play with the other children. All they played was rugby, rugby and more rugby.
“To think they did not really take note of him a few years ago because of his height. Today, that small boy has a big heart and is playing great rugby. He was raised by two hard-working parents and comes out of a humble home. All the fame did not get to him; when he passes by me then he will stop to ask how I am doing,” she added.
Fellow neighbours Patricia Marthinus, Maureen Maroen and Bernard Jordaan agreed.
“He is the same Cheslin I grew up with. He is always humble and down to earth,” Marthinus said.
Maroen added:“Cheslin and my son kicked ball together. He is a respectful person and would always greet me. When Cheslin drives in the street he would always stop to greet the children.”
Jordaan said: “While making the Western Province and Stormers teams, he was the big rugby superstar in the area. His achievements never went to his head. What you see now is what you get. He is also very supportive to the local rugby community and he is popular among the younger generation.”
“I am very proud of him,” he added. “He has filled his shoes tremendously. My message to the Springboks is to give their best no matter what the outcome and I hope they will bring home the cup and all the awards.”
Weekend Argus visited Kolbe’s alma mater, Hoërskool Brackenfell, yesterday.
Principal Jannie Muller said his humility and loyalty always stood out.
“We had to decide: are we going to make him a scrumhalf, flyhalf or fullback? At the end, we decided to make him a fullback and compared him to (former Stormers and WP teammate) Gio Aplon. He was always a regular in the school’s first team,” Muller said.
“At school, he would always come up to you and greet you. Before he went to France, my wife and I saw him at the Waterfront. He saw me and asked how I am. At the time, my wife was not with me and later he came back to say hello to her. Humble and wonderful ambassador for our school.
“He is really a small guy with a big heart. We are very proud of all his achievements. I would love them to bring back the Webb Ellis Cup,” he added.
Vice-principal for sport, Petrie Stofberg, said Kolbe arrived at the school on an athletics bursary but decided to focus on rugby too.
“He always impressed me with his skill and stepping. I remember him creating more tries rather than scoring them,” Stofberg said. “I remember in one match, there were two Brackenfell players against four of the opponent’s backline and Cheslin had the ability to draw them all in because of his speed.
“(Former Bok flyhalf) Louis Koen and a few other guys came here to conduct a clinic and they were showing some skills. While they were showing them, Cheslin was already doing the same things behind them.”
He added: “In Grade 11 or 12, they had a market day. Cheslin used a very well-known energy drink to mix with protein shakes. A number of people bought it and the one guy bought five and could not sleep for two days!
“He was always in the background and never in the foreground. I can’t remember him being in trouble or sitting detention. His academics was very good and he had a great sense of humour.”
First team captain Rohan Smith said: “Cheslin has always motivated me and my teammates. It does not matter how short you are; if you work hard, have the talent, keep on believing then you can achieve anything in life.”