The Rugby World Cup 2019 kicks off on Friday and the South African team are already feeling the love away from home.
Shortly after arriving in Japan, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus revealed one thing he had on his wish-list ahead of the team’s World Cup opener against New Zealand on Saturday - support from the locals.
It seems that wish will be granted, as the South Africans are feeling at home in Japan. You need only look at images out of the Bok camp to see it for yourself.
After a week of training in Kagoshima before they transferred to Tokyo for an official welcome ceremony, Erasmus spoke about the mood in Japan and the support they had received.
“Something that has stood out for me - and I don’t think I’ve seen this anywhere else - is the people of the host nation wearing the jersey of the visiting team - the Springbok badge,” Erasmus said.
“I think that’s been amazing to see the Japanese people wearing the Springbok jersey. I think that shows a lot of respect and I think we can learn a lot from that. It makes us proud to see that and I think you can be proud of how you have supported the World Cup and adopted teams that are visiting here and making them feel at home.”
A crowd of more than 7000 turned out at a Bok training session last week despite the fact that the Boks had beaten Japan in a warm-up match.
Meanwhile, Brett Gosper, the chief executive of World Rugby, told an audience at the welcoming ceremony at the weekend he sensed a rising Bok tide.
“What I can sense about this team is the rising capability that you are going to write your own history. I am sure you will inspire a generation of players not only in your own country, but across the world.”
For that to happen the Boks will have to win and play well, starting later this week with the one match everyone’s been waiting for: a clash with the All Blacks.
Article originally published on iol.co.za.