Rugby World Cup champions South Africa are being hailed as heroes

  • Author: Wedaeli Chibelushi
  • BBC news

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South Africa gave a heroes’ welcome as they returned home after winning the Rugby World Cup

The South African rugby team returned home from France after a record fourth World Cup win.

The players were greeted by a huge, enthusiastic crowd at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport on Tuesday.

South Africa is the most successful World Cup team after winning four titles in eight appearances.

“We have made the decision that we have already won the 2019 World Cup – it is no longer about us as players,” he told a press conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“We wanted to make sure this is for the people of South Africa. This is for every single person in South Africa. Rich, poor… it doesn’t matter where you come from.

“This trophy is also for people who come from difficult conditions in disadvantaged areas – areas that don’t have good resources.

“For a kid who sits in Zwide, who sits in Goodwood, who sits in Malmesbury… this is for you because we come from these backgrounds, we come from these backgrounds,” the captain said.

The arrivals hall at OR Tambo was packed hours before the team – nicknamed the Springboks – landed, with hundreds of fans dancing, waving flags and singing the national anthem.

Such is the spirit of the Word Cup in South Africa that the Gautrain, the high-speed commuter train connecting Johannesburg to the capital Pretoria, has offered free travel to the airport for fans braving the region’s cold and wet weather.

Some parents, dressed in team colours, told the BBC they pulled their children out of school on Tuesday because they believed welcoming the Springboks home would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For a country currently suffering from blackouts, economic turmoil and the highest unemployment rate in the world, the win served as a welcome break.

One rugby fan at the airport said: “We are the world champions! This is what we needed to lift our spirits. You can see many things happening in our country, but at this moment we are one. We are united!”

Another commented: “I’m so happy this is happening today. It’s part of our history and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa was among those who hailed the Springbok performance as a sign of hope.

“We need more, not just in terms of sporting achievements… the patriotism we show in the sports stadiums should be reflected in our approach to overcoming our challenges,” he said.

More news from Nobuhle Simelane in Johannesburg.

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