Rugby World Cup 2011
Boks 'broke bones' for SA
Peter de Villiers (File)
Johannesburg - The Springboks did not let the nation down on purpose when they bowed out of the Rugby World Cup, coach Peter de Villiers said on Monday.Click to BUY the new Drifta Mobile USB DecoderClick to BUY the new FIFA 12 game
"We let you down but we didn't do it on purpose," he said at a news briefing following the Springboks' arrival at OR Tambo International Airport.
"The players bruised themselves and broke their bones for South Africa."
De Villiers said he could not describe his feelings and thanked the country for showing their support.
Captain John Smit said the team had set goals but did not achieve them, and therefore it was difficult to be back.
"It's been an emotional two days."
Smit said the fact that people had come out in numbers to receive the team, made him feel worse.
However, he could see how passionate South Africans were and loved their team regardless of the outcome.
Springbok lock Victor Matfield said the country had seen how the team fought in New Zealand.
Both Smith and Matfield played their last match in the Springbok jersey at the weekend.
Also speaking at the briefing, Deputy Minister Gert Oosthuizen said rugby had been popularised in South Africa, even in areas where there was previously no following.
The team would be arriving in three legs due to different flight schedules, Oosthuizen said.
Fans earlier erupted in cheers and shouts of support as the team walked through the arrivals gate at the airport.
Dressed in their green and gold blazers, they were welcomed with people shouting "We love you Bokke" as they disembarked just before 17:00.
The Boks were eliminated from the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand when they lost to Australia on Sunday.
Most fans wore rugby shirts and waved flags and banners which read: "Thank you Boks", "Welcome home Boks", "Well done" and "our blood is green".
Former foreign minister Pik Botha was also waiting outside the arrivals gate.
"I'm here to support the team. They have been very good ambassadors and they have nurtured the concept of getting South Africans together," he said.
"We need each other. South Africa needs to renew the spirit which [Nelson] Mandela left us, it's part of the legacy. We are proud of you."
Clad in a Blue Bulls shirt, Chantelle Erasmus, 16, and her younger sister Toinette said they had rushed to the airport straight after school.
They said despite the loss they supported the Boks "no matter what" and would always be fans.