Cape Town - More than 3 000 excited rugby fans in the Southern Cape attended the Springboks’ open training session at the Bitou Rugby Club in Plettenberg Bay on Tuesday afternoon.
The Springbok squad got together on Monday in the popular coastal town for a training camp in preparation of their three-Test against France, which kicks off in Pretoria on June 10.
Andries Coetzee, one of the new faces in the squad, said the squad was delighted with the huge fan turn-out and the warm reception.
“The support was amazing and it was fantastic to see the locals come out and show their passion for the Springboks. We enjoyed the training session at the club as well as the interaction with the supporters afterwards,” said Coetzee.
The SWD Eagles' SuperSport Rugby Challenge squad joined the Springboks for both their sessions on Tuesday at the Bitou Rugby Club and Ian Schwartz, Springbok team manager, praised the locals for the great reception they gave to their Springbok heroes at the field.
“It was great to see the fantastic support of the locals, who came out in full force to grab the special opportunity to see their Bok heroes in action,” said Schwartz.
“The players really enjoyed the special reception, and they also enjoyed the public signing session and photo opportunities afterwards.”
He also commended the SWD team for their willingness to assist the Springboks during Tuesday’s two field sessions: “The SWD players really played their part and helped the Bok squad to have two quality sessions. Their coach, Rynhardt van As and his assistants also used the opportunity to prepare their team for the weekend’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
“There was great cooperation between the Springbok coaching staff and their SWD counterparts, which is fantastic for the local rugby region,” said Schwartz.
Rugby fans travelled from far and wide in the region to attend the 90 minute open training session. Learners from the nearby Kwanothula, Phakamisani, Kranshoek and Green Hill primary schools also got the special privilege to watch Warren Whiteley, Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Jaco Kriel, Elton Jantjies and their other Bok heroes going through their training drills.
Chris Ferreira, coach and manager of the Bitou Rugby Club in Plettenberg Bay, described their excitement and gratitude for hosting the Springbok squad for the whole of the week.
“It is an unbelievable experience and a huge privilege for us at the club and the local community, to once more host the Springboks in our town,” said Ferreira, who has been involved with the club since a young schoolboy.
“There was an explosion of excitement when the Boks confirmed their stay, and the local business all jumped in with suggestions and offers to assist the squad during their visit here.
“Plettenberg Bay is a small and tight community and the Boks’ visit has been the talk of the town for more than a month. We were especially overjoyed when the team confirmed today’s open training session, which will give rugby supporters in this region the rare opportunity to see their Springbok heroes in action in our own backyard.”
The club has a great record of hosting rugby teams visiting the Southern Cape coastal town. In 1996 they hosted the All Blacks, coached by John Hart and skippered by Sean Fitzpatrick, while in 1997 the Italian rugby side also used the club as their training base.
Nick Mallett took his Springbok Rugby World Cup training squad to Plettenberg Bay in 1999, which was the first time the Boks visited the Southern Cape coastal town. Mallett returned with his squad in 2000 and they were followed by Harry Viljoen’s team a year later (2001).