An unannounced route change on the Springboks’ victory tour through Nelson Mandela Bay left thousands of fans angry as they could not see their heroes, but for Zwide residents the sight of their captain bringing the World Cup trophy home was almost too much to bear. Many watched with tears streaming down their cheeks as captain Siya Kolisi threw kisses, beat his chest and brought the trophy home.
As the Springboks set off on their victory tour of Nelson Mandela Bay, 77-year-old rugby legend Lucky Mange was waiting for them, dressed neatly in his Spring Rose club jacket and tie and a green baseball cap — he just wanted to catch a glimpse of the coach he coached. All the way from Kwazakhele, he was keen to see one man. “I want to see Mzwandile Stick,” he said. “I was his coach.”
Stick is originally from New Brighton.
In his pocket is a copy of the letter he sent to the Springboks in Japan and the handwritten scanned note he got in return on November 1, thanking him for it. The note was signed by Stick.
He carries a bag with all his newspaper articles, framed certificates and handwritten notes.
In his letter, Mange wrote: “Don’t swap talent for anything… It is not easy to win when nobody wants to lose. Focus only on the things that matter.”
And a note to his former player:
“Great coaches are like leaders. They lead by example, demonstrating their values through their actions.”
“I hope more will come of all this happiness,” he said. “The window of opportunity for coaches to find another Siya and another Mapimpi is limited. You must catch them before they learn bad habits,” he said. “Government must do more to help us get good coaches out there. We have to find them. I don’t want to miss a single one of them.”
“There is a very happy vibe here today and everybody has been celebrating. For me too it was a dream come true to see Siya lift that trophy. But I want to celebrate the coaches too. That team had the best coaches.”
Kolisi and his team were met with loud cheering and dancing — with a special applause for Faf de Klerk — when they arrived at the Port Elizabeth City Hall yesterday morning.
Along the route from the hotel men dressed in the speedos De Klerk made so famous when he met Prince Harry were holding up balloons spelling Faf’s name.
During a quick ceremony at the city hall coach Rassie Erasmus, Stick, player Makazole Mapimpi and Kolisi took turns to thank fans for their support.
As the bus passed the iconic landmarks of Wolfson Stadium and Njoli Square in New Brighton, thousands of people lined Spondo and Konyana roads in Zwide where Kolisi grew up. They braved intermittent showers and howling wind. People came from church with bibles in hand. Others arrived on the back of bakkies already drinking. A local shebeen boss received wild applause as he drove past with a bakkie packed with alcohol.
A drunk man driving a white Citi Golf lost control of his vehicle and swerved towards a group of children waiting on the side of the road, narrowly missing them. The community surrounded the vehicle and tried to pull the driver out of the car. Another man intervened. “Leave him!” he shouted. “We are going to miss Siya.”
The drunk man left.
At Monic’s hair salon in the middle of the street where the bus was to pass, the Sunday morning hairdressing had come to a standstill. Women and children were all waiting on the tiny stoep to see Kolisi.
“There is no hair being done today,” hairdresser Azile Rawana said. “Honestly we are too excited. I can’t even concentrate.”
Salon client Happiness Dlanga brought her two children Lihlohonolo and Mohope with her.
“Since last Saturday we have been looking forward to this day. We are so excited. I know Siya is tired, but it is good that he is coming home,” she said.
After hours of waiting, the arrival of their hero on the bus holding the World Cup trophy had them all cheering, some with tears streaming down their faces.
Kolisi stood on the bus throwing kisses and beating his chest as thousands of fans on the ground followed suit.
Already more than an hour behind schedule, the bus proceeded to coach Rassie Erasmus’s home town, Despatch, where Erasmus lifted the trophy with Kolisi to cheers and applause of an ecstatic crowd.
Patiently following them all the way was Ludwe Bomali
“I used to play in the number 6 jersey,” he said. “I am from New Brighton.”
When the Springboks won the World Cup he asked a friend to make a trophy for him depicting Kolisi’s face.
“I also wrote a song for them. Wherever they go I am following singing to them. Kolisi is my captain and I want to honour them with all my talents.”
Everywhere in Nelson Mandela Bay motorists were blowing hooters, waving flags from minibus taxis and car windows.
Kurt Kock from Schauderville arrived at the Springboks’ first stop with a homemade poster showing Cheslin Kolbe scoring tries.
“He is my hero and I am so happy that I will get to see him.”
Also on the poster were a few roses looking a little worse for wear. “Those I got from my neighbour. I wanted to show that he crushed them,” Kock said.
“When that final whistle blew last Saturday I was so excited I couldn’t even stay in the house. I was running around in the streets.”
Thousands of fans who were waiting along the streets of Port Elizabeth’s Northern Areas, the metro’s mainly coloured areas, Kwanobuhle and parts of Uitenhage were left bitterly disappointed when the tour route changed to make up for lost time.
At Uitenhage’s Fourways, traditionally a place where All Black supporters gathered, fans waited in vain for the bus to see the new sign they had put up celebrating their Springboks.
At some places residents had been waiting since 9am before they were informed of the route change at 3pm.
The parking lot at Greenacres Shopping Mall was packed from early Sunday as thousands of fans eagerly awaited the arrival of the Springboks for hours. Despite the cold they were eagerly cheering the team as Kolisi performed his signature dance moves with the trophy to the great delight of the crowd.
The Springboks headed for Cape Town on Sunday afternoon for the last leg of their tour. MC
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