They arrived at 3 pm. Almost two hours before the Springboks were scheduled to land at Port Elizabeth International Airport.
They carefully put on their rugby shirts, proudly displaying the flag of the African Bombers Rugby Club.
“It is Siya’s club,” Mlangovuyo Mchatha, 14, said. “We just want to welcome him home.”
The African Bombers Rugby Club was the club where Kolisi first played as a youngster.
As others dance, sang and ran around they stood still with their flag. Eager to see him.
“We just want to see him,” Mchatha say. “We watched all the games. He is our favourite.”
As the crowd, several thousand people strong, danced and cheered as the Springboks arrived, they waved shyly as Kolisi and the other players were ushered into two buses waiting for them. Then they packed up their flag and they left.
Mchatah, Sibabalwe Giwintsa, 12, Lizabana Waka, 14, Likhoy Mzantsi, 13, Onwabe Tanana, 12, Anganathi Mamoeku, 14, Odwa Dumke, 14, Loyiso Mtwebana, 14, Mila Mali, 14, Sive April, 14, Likhaya Kota, 13, Mihlali Jawuka, 14, Lunesipho Magoma, 13, Alwaba Skosana, 13 and Bathobele Hlekani – the whole team came to wait for “their captain.”
“We just wanted him to see him come home,” Mchatha said.
Thousands of people packed the parking lot and the arrivals hall of the small airport waiting for the Springboks. They were half an hour delayed but that did not deter the crowds who stood outside in the gale force wind wrapping themselves in the flags they brought along.
With members of the Airport Company of South Africa’s security team leading the singing the crowd was soon dancing and cheering.
Grace Gongqa brought her grandson, Yongama Kaone Gongwa, 3. “He had his nursery school graduation today and then he asked if I can bring him to see the Springboks,” she said.
Frankie Ferreira said he was just happy to be part of the crowd who assembled to greet the Springboks. “It is wonderful what sport can do. This whole week everybody has just been so positive. It is extra special to me that our Eastern Cape boys are literally coming home,” he said.
Nelson Mandela Bay executive mayor, Mongameli Bobani, said the cup belongs in Nelson Mandela Bay as the captain, Kolisi, coach Rassie Erasmus and assistant coach, Mzwandile Stick all were from the metro.
On Sunday the Springboks’ victory tour will take them through the city including a visit to Zwide where Kolisi grew up, Erasmus’ home town Despatch and New Brighton. Their tour will end in Cape Town on Monday. MC