Durban’s heroes’ welcome for Boks
Tata Madiba would have been proud, says jubilant resident
YESTERDAY Durban erupted into a sea of green and gold as the Springbok Victory Tour took over the city and Durbanites turned out in their thousands to cheer on the national heroes.
There was an unprecedented level of “gees” in the air, with captain Siya Kolisi and his team holding the William “Bill” Webb-Ellis Cup aloft on the victory bus which wound through uMhlanga, KwaMashu, to City Hall, along the beachfront and ending at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
By early morning, the streets of uMhlanga were packed with fans and Gateway’s Total Sports manager, Rivashni Harichander, said their Bok jerseys were sold out before the World Cup final.
KwaMashu residents roared and sang as the bus drove through.
Wheelchair-bound Xolani Nzimande carried a rugby ball, which the crowd threw around in celebration. Nzimande said he hoped the Springboks would sign his ball, but the team bus did not stop.
“I’m very happy about the Springboks’ win; they have done very well and made us proud as a country,” he said.
Zanele Ngcobo said having been brought up during the apartheid era, the win meant a lot because it brought about unity in the country.
“I’m glad because even our children can now see we have moved on from that era. Look at everyone here together, a black man celebrating with a white man; Madiba would have been proud.” Taxi drivers chanted from the top of the taxi rank roof, cheering for the Boks and singing Shosholoza as Kolisi raised the “Bill” in their direction.
Phumzile Mpanza said the win was more than just bringing the cup home.
“There’s been segregation in the country, even politically; our economy is crumbling. I believe this is going to pick us (up) and raise our spirits and we’re going to have a joyful festive season. I’m looking forward to 2020,” she said.
Outside the city hall, strangers became instant friends as chants of “Siya, Siya” welcomed the Springboks.
“This is unity. This is the real love that we South Africans deserve,” said Sondelani Rest, a pastor from Inchanga, embracing Michelle Johnson. He added: “I see the blackness in her and she sees the whiteness in me. It’s just so nice to see this vibe and there’s more to come.”
Betty Beeks, who knew nothing about sport and did not have a TV, started taking an interest in the Rugby World Cup when she heard South Africa was in the final.
Yesterday she was outside the city hall “to powerfully wave the South African flag for us all to be together”.
Alongside her were Shirley Dewhurst and Edmond Rehman, never having met one another but, nonetheless, discussing the significance of the win.
Mary Mkhize, with traditional clay on her face, lifted her hands in jubilation saying “ngiyajabula kakhulu (I am so happy)”.
The beachfront was also lined with chanting crowds, including Comrades Marathon veteran Arthur Connell, 73, who has witnessed all three Springbok World Cup wins. He said there was a special atmosphere in the country around this win compared with those in 1995 and 2007.
“This is hysteria. I have been to all celebratory tours and it’s never been as well attended as this. Even youngsters from schools have been let out early to experience this,” said Connell.
Durban resident, Grant Hill, who was in the Yokohama stadium for the final against England, said: “We were outnumbered by 10 to 1, with the spectators, there was just a sea of white all the way around. They were very noisy in the beginning but when we held them out, it shut them up and they did not sing again.”
Then the team went to lunch with KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala and eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda.
Outside the stadium was UKZN sciences student Lunga Makhaye who said he would have to write a supplementary exam because he was so wrapped up in Bok fever, he couldn’t study for the one set down.
“I came here today to support the boys and tell them we love them, they’ve done us proud,” he said.
His colleague, Karlan Naidoo, said he wrote the exam in an emotional state because of the team’s achievement.
“Thanks for the World Cup and for making South Africans feel proud.”
Tess Grantham confessed to bunking school to be at the parade: “There was no exam and I wanted to say well done to the team. We’ve waited a long time. It’s brought South Africa together and we’re proud of you.”
A family drove to Durban from Richards Bay to celebrate.
Eileen, Neil and Izibella Belcher and Abby Erasmus left the town at 7am and joined the throng in uMhlanga. That was not enough for them and they rejoined the parade at Moses Mabhida for a second round of cheering.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate,” said Eileen.
Inside the function room, where a media briefing was held, was one of the Springboks most dedicated fans, Johan van den Berg, who was also in the Tokyo stadium for the final. He was just metres from where Makazole Mapimpi scored his try, putting the Boks firmly in the lead and creating euphoria back home.
“It was awesome, awesome, awesome, I cannot describe it in words,” said an emotional Van den Berg.
Durban’s legendary Springbok, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira thanked the country for all their support, describing it as “overwhelming”.
“It has been incredible to see the number of people on the streets. This World Cup win is important for the country as a whole. You have all been part of the journey,” he said.
Having announced his retirement from rugby this week, Mtawarira said: “I’m so grateful for the journey I’ve had. This is the way I want to exit and I have made my decision with a lot of peace in my heart.”
Zikalala said the Boks had flown the South African flag high.
“We are one nation, united,” he said, while Kaunda said: “we are inspired by our warriors, our champions, our heroes”.
The Boks arrived in East London last night for the next leg of their tour today.
AS THE victorious Springboks arrived at the Durban City Hall yesterday, the crowds chanted “Siya! Siya! Siya!” in welcome. Durban residents turned out in force, waving their flags, ready to welcome their heroes. |