Springboks’ rousing send-off (Gallery)

The Springboks, led by minister of sport and recreation Fikile Mbalula, were given a rousing send-off by a big crowd at Monte Casino in Johannesburg, on Friday.

There is something rather plastic and cheesy about send-offs for sporting teams, but there was no doubting the sincerity of Springbok captain Jean de Villiers when he told a crowd of thousands gathered at Montecasino yesterday afternoon that “We will never give up!”

South Africa’s 31-man rugby squad left for the World Cup in England on the 8pm flight last night, with many questions hanging over their heads, most of them injury-related, while transformation storms have also blown about their heads.

But De Villiers, whose own journey to the World Cup has been remarkable considering the knee reconstruction and broken jaw he has had to recover from in the last year, pledged nothing short of 100% commitment from his team. “We will never give up! All these players are proven at Super Rugby and Test level and this campaign is not about lasts or firsts or farewells for guys, we have to make sure we get the job done, starting with Japan next weekend. Moments like this make it very special to play for the Springboks. We play for so much more than other teams and that gives us an edge,” De Villiers said.

“Rugby is our main focus and we’re going over there to win. The vibe within the squad is fantastic. The previous couple of weeks were tough with the atmosphere in South Africa and the supporters, and a lot of negativity came through.

“But it’s a minority that created that and this week we’ve realised how special it is to play for the Springboks and it definitely feels like the whole of the country is behind us.”

Sports minister Fikile Mbalula gave the Springboks his traditional “Moer hulle” war-cry and said he was proud of Villiers knows his squad are, in many ways, flying into the eye of the storm with so many things not having gone to plan in the buildup.

“You can say whatever you want about our preparation in 2007 and the team, but De 2011 and our preparation now, but all that matters is what you go out and do. Then you can say whether your preparation was good enough or not. ‘’Preparation is important, but ultimately we have to go out and perform under pressure. That’s where team-mates and team spirit come through, in keeping the spirits up, and that will happen every day,” De Villiers said.

Fascinating facts about the oval ball game

Did you know that the same whistle is used to kick off the opening game of every Rugby World Cup tournament? It is the Gil Evans Whistle and was first blown by the eponymous Welsh referee in a match between England and New Zealand in 1905.

And did you know just like the last five tournaments, this year’s official Rugby World Cup 2015 ball will be provided by British company Gilbert – the same company manufactured the sport’s first-ever ball back in Rugby in 1823, being based then in a small shop near Rugby School.

A few weeks before the start of this year’s tournament, VisitBritain has furnished patriotic rugby fans with some interesting facts. For instance, some famous players who are better known for others skills, include actors Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, and Russell Crowe, politicians John F Kennedy, Bill Clinton and freedom fighter Ernesto “Che” Guevara, writer JRR Tolkien and artist

Meat Loaf, VisitBritain said in a statement. Until 1984, rugby union lacked a global international competition with only regional championships such as Europe’s Six Nations. The 2003 tournament in Australia remains the only Rugby World Cup won by a northern hemisphere side – England. No team has ever won two Rugby World Cup tournaments in succession.








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