Wellington - The Springboks were welcomed to New Zealand in amazing fashion as more than 1 000 vocal supporters crammed into the small arrivals area at Wellington International Airport to greet the defending World Champions.
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After their amazing send-off in Sandton on Thursday, the Boks arrived in Wellington just after midnight on Friday night (NZ time) to find a hardened base of support waiting for them in the bitterly cold late-night air.
But not even the cold stopped the fans from seeing their heroes, as they chanted, were swept away by the moment and even broke into strains of the national anthem and Shosholoza as they waited.
The arrival was in stark contrast to their main pool rivals Wales, who arrived earlier in the day to a handful of fans who wished the team well in their endeavours.
A major media contingent also braved the late night to show just how respected the Boks are in these parts, and shortly after midnight the team emerged to find a local Maori group welcome them with the Kapa Haka – a traditional greeting for visitors from abroad.
But pandemonium broke loose when the Boks entered the hall, with fans singing and calling the names of their favourite players, trying to grab signatures or even just a handshake from their heroes.
Some of the favourites included Bismarck du Plessis, Pat Lambie and Victor Matfield, while Bakkies Botha and Beast Mtawarira had their names chanted in unison.
Captain John Smit even got a marriage proposal from a fan, who wasn’t scared to let him know that he is well supported in New Zealand.
The Boks were tired, but still managed some time for autographs and photos with fans before being whisked away to their hotel for some much needed shuteye.
The team will give their first press conference on Saturday, followed by a light training run to help shake off the jetlag.