Springboks given rousing send-off as they embark on World Cup journey

Springboks given rousing send-off as they embark on World Cup journey

The Springboks departed South Africa's shores on Saturday determined to make the country proud as they headed to Cardiff for the first stop on their way to France for the Rugby World Cup.

Bok captain Siya Kolisi said that the South African people were at the top of their minds as they embark on their journey, as he thanked the large crowd that arrived at OR Tambo International Airport to send them on their way to Europe.

More than 5,000 tickets were snapped up for the send-off event, which featured South African artists Robbie Wessels, Loyiso Bala, Early B, Mariechan, Lloyd Cele, Bernice West, GoodLuck, Mgarimbe, Dr Victor and the Rasta Rebels, as well as PJ Powers.

The Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Zizi Kodwa delivered a message of support and the Boks signed autographs and posed for selfies as fans flocked to the airport to see the team one final time before they headed abroad.

"Every time we enter the World Cup there are some challenges in the country, and we have the power to try to change people's emotions and put smiles on their faces if we do well," said Kolisi. "As a team, we come from such diverse backgrounds, and it makes us feel good to give people hope."

The Boks have a busy schedule ahead, with warm-up matches against Wales in Cardiff next Saturday and New Zealand in London the following Friday, before departing for a week-long training camp in Corsica en route to their tournament base in Toulon.

The opening World Cup match is against Scotland in Marseille on Sunday, 10 September.

"The main difference between the 2019 RWC and this one, is that there is a little more expectation on us now," said Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber.

"As a team, we've built more squad depth over the last few years, but the expectations are not a burden, it's a privilege.

"In the last few weeks, we've attended a few functions and we've heard all the messages from our partners, dignitaries, and the public, so we realise how much support we have. We understand the expectations and we embrace it.

"The beauty of this squad is that we have quite a lot of experience," Nienaber added. "We have nine players participating in their third Rugby World Cup, and a whole lot in their second. So perhaps only a third of the squad is going into their first World Cup."

Kolisi added: "We are entering this World Cup as defending champions, whereas we were the underdogs the last time. We may not be underdogs this time, but we are not the favourites.

"That said, we know what to expect this time and we have a lot more experience as a group. Even the younger players are not entering this competition blindly because there are several experienced players around them to guide them. All in all, we are in a better mental place this time."

Both Nienaber and Kolisi suggested that after managing squad rotation in the past four matches - to give as many players as possible a chance to put up their hand for World Cup selection - the plan in their next few weeks was to start building team continuity.

"A guy like Jaden (Hendrikse) has not had game time yet, and it would be nice to give him some time on the field," said Nienaber. "But there'll be less chopping and changing, and we'll try to build more combinations."

Kolisi echoed his sentiments: "We certainly want to win and start building player combinations. We've used 38 players in the last four matches, so I'm not sure what the coaches' thinking is, but with the Rugby World Cup ahead, we'll start trying to build combinations and momentum."

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