Cape Town - Springbok forwards Beast Mtawarira, Eben Etzebeth and a bunch of their teammates lit up a home for the aged in Middelburg on Sunday by serving the elderly residents tea and coffee with cupcakes, while a few streets away, Francois Hougaard, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk and Vincent Koch showed their creative side by completing a #LoveRugby hand-painted mural.
Not your usual team building exercise activities, but that’s precisely what the Springbok squad did on Sunday afternoon as part of their road trip from Johannesburg to Nelspruit in Mpumalanga, where they will be facing Argentina in the opening round of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship this weekend.
The squad assembled in Johannesburg and then boarded the team bus for the four hour long road trip from Gauteng to Mpumalanga. Ninety minutes into the road trip, the team bus made a slight detour into the tranquil town of Middelburg to visit the St Joseph’s Home for the Aged. During their brief surprise visit, the squad and management served cupcakes, tea, coffee and fruit juice to the elderly residents.
They then made their way to another part of the town, where they put the finishing touches to a colourful #LoveRugby mural and each player signed his name on completion of the artwork. As word spread of the Boks’ unexpected presence in the town, a large crowd of excited fans had gathered by the time the players were finished painting the mural.
Upon their arrival at the location of the mural, the team was swamped by the local community, jostling to get a rare glimpse of the Boks in their town.
Sixteen year old Richard Mhlangu said he could not believe his eyes when the Springbok bus rolled into his town.
“I heard about the mural and that the Boks were coming, but I thought it was just a prank, until I saw the bus. The players were so friendly and they went out of their way to greet us. It was really special and I hope they do well against Argentina,” said Richard, an avid Bok fan.
Experienced Springbok wing Bryan Habana, who joined the squad on Sunday from France, said the two #LoveRugby activations were excellent ideas.
“It’s a small gesture to say thank you to our amazing fans, we all enjoyed the activities,” said Habana.
On Monday morning, the Bok squad was abuzz following Wayde van Niekerk’s sublime performance in the final of the 400m at the Olympic Games in Rio, where he won South Africa’s first gold medal at the event in Brazil and set a new world record in the one-lap event.
“Wayde has really made all of us very proud and on behalf of the Springboks, I would like to congratulate him and his coach, Ans Botha, on a magnificent achievement in Rio,” said Springbok coach Allister Coetzee, who also sent Van Niekerk a video message via the Springboks’ social media channels.
On Monday afternoon, hundreds of Bok fans turned up to see the players in action during an open training session at the Mbombela Stadium. The fans watched the Boks go through their paces during two strenuous sessions and they also managed to get some autographs and photos with their Bok heroes afterwards.
Elton Jantjies, Damien de Allende and Rudy Paige (photo supplied by SA Rugby)