SA in Australia

A heroes welcome for Proteas

2009-01-31 21:19
Johannesburg - "Viva, Proteas, Viva". "Anything to declare? A victory!". "Welcome Proteas, bye-bye Bruce". These were some of the banners waved by the more than a thousand people who flocked to OR Tambo Airport to welcome home the Proteas after their triumphant tour of Australia.

The Proteas beat Australia 2-1 in the Test series and 4-1 in the one-day international (ODI) series, with their victory earning them the number one ODI spot.

When the players came into the arrivals hall, they were greeted by cheers that nearly raised the roof. A few looked somewhat bewildered by their reception, others were all smiles.

"We left Australia as heroes, and we arrived here as heroes," beamed coach Mickey Arthur. "We never dreamt that we would have a reception like this - it was wonderful of everyone to come and greet us on a Saturday evening. It was a World Cup moment for us - walking in and getting a reception like that, and the guys really deserved it.

"We also had a tremendous departure - many of the South Africans living in Perth lined the street to say goodbye." Arthur and national captain Graeme Smith, who flew up from Cape Town to welcome the team home, both stressed that the team's success was the result of long-term planning and continuity of selection.

"Most of the young players have been travelling with the team for some time. They know their roles and when the opportunity comes, they are able to take it," said Arthur.

Smith agreed, saying 2008 had been an incredible year for the Proteas.

"It has been an incredible team effort, and I think a lot of that is down to continuity in the team."

Despite the team's success in the ODIs, Arthur warned that the ODI side was still a work in progress.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we were going to pull off a 4-1 series win," he laughed. "After we beat England in the Test series, we were hopelessly beaten in the ODI series, and we came back here through the back door. We certainly didn't have a reception like we did today.

"We have surpassed what we thought we would do. But we know the Aussies are going to be angry, and they are going to come back hard when they come to South Africa. We're the favourites to win the return series. With success comes expectation, and it is going to be harder to win at home -but we believe we can do it, and retain our Number One status. We have a big eye on the World Cup in 2011."

Arthur said one of the pleasing things about the tour had been the way the Proteas had won over the Australians.

"When you win, it's how you win," he said. "We were always humble in victory, and the Australians liked that. Also, the boys made time to sign autographs and talk to people. I think the standing ovation Graeme (Smith) received from the main stand in Sydney when he made his way to the Channel Nine said it all."

Australia arrive in South Africa later this month for a series including three Tests, two Twenty20 matches and five ODIs.

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