South Africans scream, sing and dance as Springboks return

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Springboks scrumhalf Faf de Klerk greets supporters upon the South African Rugby team’s arrival at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. (AFP)
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Fans await the arrival of captain of the South Africa Springbok rugby team, Siya Kolisis, portrait on poster, and his team from Japan at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
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Springboks fly half Elton Jantjies signs a rugby jersey upon the South African Rugby team’s arrival at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. (AFP)
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Fans await the arrival of the South Africa Springbok rugby team at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg. South Africa beat England in the Rugby World Cup final Saturday 32-12. (AP Photo)
Updated 05 November 2019

South Africans scream, sing and dance as Springboks return

  • Forward Pieter-Steph du Toit, voted World Rugby Player of the Year two days ago, and scrum-half Faf de Klerk were among the first players to arrive
  • Black and white, male and female, young, middle aged and old, low-income earners and the wealthy all descended on the airport east of Johannesburg to salute their heroes

JOHANNESBURG: Thousands of South Africans screamed with joy, danced and sang at OR Tambo airport near Johannesburg Tuesday as a first group of Springboks who won the Rugby World Cup returned home.
Forward Pieter-Steph du Toit, voted World Rugby Player of the Year two days ago, and scrum-half Faf de Klerk were among the first players to arrive.
The victorious squad, coaches and officials are scheduled to return between Tuesday and Wednesday as no airline could accommodate the entire group on one flight.
Captain Siya Kolisi and coach Rassie Erasmus are among a group expected to arrive in Johannesburg later Tuesday.
A carnival atmosphere enveloped the normally sedate international arrivals section of the airport as Du Toit, De Klerk and some teammates and coaches received deafening applause.
Black and white, male and female, young, middle aged and old, low-income earners and the wealthy all descended on the airport east of Johannesburg to salute their heroes.
Many wore replica green and gold shirts and waved national flags as they celebrated the rugby triumph which was all the sweeter after poor recent results by the national football and cricket teams.
The Springboks dominated and then crushed pre-match favorites England 32-12 in Japanese city Yokohama on Saturday to lift the World Cup a record-equalling third time.
Winning the four-yearly showcase of rugby so decisively has lifted the spirits of a nation mired in economic and social quagmires.
Although boasting the most developed economy in Africa, South Africa is struggling with stagnant growth, near 30-percent unemployment and widespread poverty and inequality.
Headlines about corruption in state institutions and violence against women and children also appear with alarming frequency in the media.
Rosharon Morgan, a 34-year-old from western Johannesburg, said she closed the family engineering business for the day in order to welcome the Springboks.
“I’m here because the Springboks are the pride of the nation,” she said.
“I was listening to the speeches of (captain) Siya Kolisi and (coach) Rassie Erasmus and they were along the lines of uniting us and giving us hope.
“Right now there is a lot of euphoria in the county, but what we need to do is turn that into tangible changes. The problem is that we are not working toward (racial) unity.
“There are still many issues that need to be addressed such as racial and economic inequalities. We cannot overlook them.”
Moemedi Mashiolane, 45, works in the security industry and took advantage of free train transport to join the celebrations.
“I came here because this is Nelson Mandela’s legacy — this is what he would have wanted,” he said.
“Rugby has united us. Where I come from rugby is a sport played by white people but today it has united us.
“We want white people to know that we want to be part of rugby and they must allow us to play the game.”
Mashiolane said he loved the speech Kolisi made about unity as it uplifted his spirits.
“He knows about our lives as black people and I hope politicians learn from that. They must not think we are stupid — we can see they are trying to divide us.”
What made the Springboks’ success special was it being achieved with a team reflecting both racial groups with nine whites and six blacks in the starting line-up.
The team was captained by forward Kolisi, who last year became the first black Test captain in South African history.
Formed in 1891, the Springboks fielded only whites for 90 years before fly-half Errol Tobias became the first black player to represent his country.
Just one black, winger Chester Williams, featured in the 1995 World Cup-winning and there two wingers, JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, in the side that conquered the world 12 years later.
Despite government pressure for the Springboks to select teams that better reflected a population that is 90 percent black, many coaches chose predominantly white teams.
Erasmus turned the tide after replacing embattled Allister Coetzee as coach last year, giving a string of black stars opportunities.
In Yokohama, there were six black starters: Kolisi, fellow forward Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira and Bongi Mbonambi, and backs Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi.
Kolbe was a candidate for the World Rugby Player of the Year award won by Du Toit and Mapimpi the second highest try scorer at the World Cup with six.


Coco bid ends in tears as Djokovic, Federer blast into quarterfinals

Updated 8 min 8 sec ago

Coco bid ends in tears as Djokovic, Federer blast into quarterfinals

  • Novak Djokovic was remorseles against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman to book an 11th appearance in the last eight, where he will clash with big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic

MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer swept into the Australian Open quarterfinals but 15-year-old Coco Gauff exited in tears on Sunday after her quest to become the Open era’s youngest Grand Slam winner came screeching to a halt.

As Melbourne marked Australia Day with formation jets and a 21-gun salute, world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty had home fans celebrating before crowd favorite Federer dismantled Marton Fucsovics in the night match.

Djokovic, hunting his eighth Melbourne title, was remorseless against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, crushing the 14th seed 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to book an 11th appearance in the last eight.

The Serb’s reward is a match-up with big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, who is back in form after a run of injuries and dismissed 2018 finalist Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

“I’ve got to be ready for missiles coming from his side of the net,” said Djokovic, the 16-time Grand Slam winner.

Gauff’s giant-killing Australian debut generated hype dubbed ‘Cocomania’ as she attempted to become the youngest Major winner in the post-1968 Open Era, breaking the record set by a 16-year-old Martina Hingis in 1997.

Gauff beat seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in round one and title-holder Naomi Osaka in the third, but she came unstuck against a determined Sofia Kenin.

Gauff raised hopes by edging the first set but then her fellow American took control and it was one-sided at the finish as Kenin won 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-0.

“The thing I’m most proud of myself is how I handled it on the court,” said Gauff, who shed tears after her defeat. “Even though today I lost a set 6-0, I was still believing I could win it.”

Kenin, already on the best Grand Slam run of her career, next faces Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who beat China’s Wang Qiang to become the first Arab woman to reach a Major quarterfinal.

Wang stunned Serena Williams in the third round but the 27th seed ran out of steam against Jabeur, who fought back from a break down in the first set to win 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.

Jabeur, the highest-ranked Arab woman in history — she reached a career-high 51 last year — is the first Tunisian woman to win a main-draw match at the Australian Open.

“I’m really shaking right now, it’s unbelievable, I can’t describe how I feel,” said the 25-year-old.

Australia’s Barty had some nervy moments against American Alison Riske, dropping the second set and briefly losing her way before recovering to win 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.

She now has an improving chance of becoming the first home-grown winner since Chris O’Neil in 1978 after six of the top 10 seeds exited in the previous round.

“I just had to hang in there and try and give myself a chance,” said Barty, who next plays Petra Kvitova, after the two-time Wimbledon champion beat Maria Sakkari 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-2.

Later, Federer sent ripples of consternation around Rod Laver Arena when he dropped the first set against Hungary’s Fucsovics, the world No. 67.

But the 38-year-old Swiss, pushed to a fifth-set tie-breaker by Australia’s John Millman on Friday, came alive in the second set as he rattled through the match 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

“It just took me some time, I tried to mix it up a bit and just had to figure it out. From the beginning of the second set it got a little bit easier,” Federer said.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion’s quarter-final is against unseeded American Tennys Sandgren, who upset Italian 12th seed Fabio Fognini in four tough sets, 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4.