Cape Town


World Cup success unites Rainbow Nation


South Africa's world champion rugby team were left wanting only one thing following their 15-6 victory over England — to be somewhere else entirely. The plane home could not come fast enough and with it the chance to share in South Africa's biggest street party since 1995.

By Saturday's 9pm kick-off, the team had been left in no doubt that the whole country was supporting them — a message delivered in person by state president Thabo Mbeki, who visited the team hotel five hours earlier to thank them for uniting the nation.

And as the 30,000 or so Springboks fans celebrated at Stade de France there were many millions in South Africa revelling in the nation's second chance to enjoy each other's company.

Old rugby fans and the newly converted spilled into city streets together, and the fan parks set up around the country to show the match on giant screens were inundated with supporters of all races to watch John Smit receive the trophy from President Mbeki.

"This is an incredible boost — not just for rugby in South Africa but for the whole country," said Smit.

"To be able to celebrate something together and to be able to rekindle that spirit of 1995 in terms of the diversity we have as a country is an incredible thing. That's the energy we've been feeding off. The exciting part is going to be taking this little feller [the trophy] home and seeing what an effect it has had back home.

"We haven't been back for two months and there's a lot that we can draw from this little cup and there's a lot we can take back and build on within South Africa as South Africans together. I remember what it was like last time and I hope it's as good as 12 years ago if not better when we go back on Tuesday."

Plans were being put together for the team to take an open-top bus tour of Johannesburg and Pretoria next Friday and then parade the trophy before a sell-out crowd at the Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein on Saturday. On Sunday they will visit Durban and Port Elizabeth and conclude the tour in Cape Town on Monday.

"Coming from a country like ours, you only had to see the State President being lifted onto the players' shoulders to know that it doesn't come bigger than that," said Jake White, the South Africa coach.

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