JOHANNESBURG - Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, paid tribute to the Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok squad for their amazing feat in Japan, as well as all of South Africa for supporting the men in green and gold as they reached rugby’s ultimate summit.
The Springboks returned home to South Africa on Tuesday and were met by more than 10,000 supporters at OR Tambo International Airport, all of whom were there to get a glimpse of their heroes and the Webb Ellis Cup.
Alexander congratulated Rassie Erasmus, director of rugby, Bok captain Siya Kolisi and the rest of the squad and management for winning the Rugby World Cup.
“What Rassie, Siya and our team achieved in Japan is truly exceptional,” said Alexander.
“To see thousands of South Africans take hands, sing, dance and rejoice at their achievement yesterday, warmed my heart and gave me hope for our wonderfully diverse country.
“Thank you Rassie and the Boks, for lifting our spirits in the last two months. We really are stronger, together.”
Alexander also thanked the players for their role in the Springboks’ success.
“A few years ago, we were languishing low down on the world rankings, but we are number one now – for the first time in 10 years – and walked away with an armful of accolades at the recent World Rugby Awards.
“To Siya, Handré and your team-mates, thank you.
“Our two electric try-scorers in the final, Cheslin and Makazole; our World Rugby Player of the Year, Pieter-Steph; Man of the Match in the final, Duane; all other squad members; Jesse and Trevor, who had to return home from Japan; their replacements in Damian and Thomas; and the others who were part of the wider squad but didn’t make the final selection to Japan – all of you played a massive role.
“And the Boks’ hard-working team management also deserve praise. Most of them operate far away from the public eye, but they poured every ounce of energy into this campaign and helped to make it a success.”
Alexander said there was much to look forward to in the next few years in South African rugby, with the game at a positive point in its history, but that hard work awaits to ensure we remain consistent.
“It’s exciting times for rugby in our country – in two years’ time we welcome the British & Irish Lions to South Africa in what will be a typically tough and uncompromising series, and in 2022 we’re hosting the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town,” he said.
“Next year, our Blitzboks will aim to emulate the Springboks achievement in Tokyo at the Olympic Games and in 2021 the Springbok Women will play in the Rugby World Cup; the SA Schools and Junior Bok teams are creating a pathway to the top for our elite young players; we have an exciting new Vodacom Super Rugby format to look forward to from next year; our teams are starting to find their feet in the Guinness PRO14; and the Currie Cup was as brilliant as ever this year.
“Thank you to our franchises and unions for buying into a bigger plan and the important role they also played in the Boks’ success. The same applies to our staff at SARU House in Cape Town, for putting in many hours of dedicated hard work.”
Alexander added that on-field success would not be possible without the backing from millions of South Africans off the field.
“We really have wonderful supporters, who flock to rugby fields at schools, clubs and big stadiums across the country for most weekends of the year, who supported the Boks from pubs, taverns and living rooms, who came out to the airport yesterday and who will line the streets during our trophy tour in the coming days – a massive thanks to all of you, as you make all the effort worth our while,” he said.
“None of this would have been possible without the support of our family of sponsors, many of whom put their trust in us when times were tough and friends were few. Thank you for believing in SA Rugby and your amazing backing.
“Also to our media corps, who help spread the message of rugby to our fellow countrymen and women, your work has not gone by unnoticed.
“And lastly, but certainly not least – to our President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, our Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthetwa, and government, thank you for your unwavering support, not only in the last two months in Japan, but especially in the last few years. We are truly grateful.”