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.


Djokovic survives scare as rain causes chaos at Australian Open

Updated 20 January 2020

Djokovic survives scare as rain causes chaos at Australian Open

  • World No. 3 Federer was briefly hauled off court while the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena

MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic survived a scare to join Roger Federer and Serena Williams in the Australian Open second round as heavy downpours caused chaos on Monday, forcing organizers to postpone a swathe of matches.

Defending champion Djokovic was made to sweat before beating Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in four sets on the first day, when fears over air pollution were replaced by disruption caused by rain.

In the late match, defending champion Djokovic dropped his first set since 2006 in the opening round before recovering to beat Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.

“There is a lot of pressure and a lot of different emotions involved. I definitely try to remind myself to stay present and really enjoy,” said the seven-time Melbourne winner, who brought up his 900th Tour-level victory.

While play continued at the three stadiums with retractable roofs, half of the 64 scheduled matches were postponed, ensuring a big backlog for Tuesday.

Wet conditions are unusual for the Australian Open, which is more used to extreme heat and was plagued by smog from bushfires during qualifying, when players suffered coughing fits and breathing problems.

Air quality was rated “good” as the first round started on Monday but about four hours later play was suspended on outside courts when the heavens opened in Melbourne.

World No. 3 Federer was briefly hauled off court while the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena before returning to complete a routine 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over American Steve Johnson.

Williams, on the hunt for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, won the first set against Anastasia Potapova in just 19 minutes as she cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 win in less than an hour.

“I feel like I can still improve and get better throughout this tournament, for sure. This is a good stepping stone for right now,” Williams said.

However, Williams’ elder sister Venus was ousted in stunning fashion by 15-year-old Coco Gauff, who won 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 in a repeat of her first-round upset at Wimbledon last year.

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens was the biggest women’s casualty on day one when she crashed out in three sets to Zhang Shuai of China — her fourth first-round exit in Melbourne.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka was done well before the downpour as she dismissed Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4 in 80 minutes, smashing one powerful serve that broke a net fastening.

“It was really tough for me trying to control my nerves,” said Osaka. “It’s tough to play someone you’ve never played before in the first round of a Grand Slam.”

Later on the covered center court, Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty recovered strongly from a set down to beat Lesia Tsurenko 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.

In the men’s draw, Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Federer en route to last year’s semis, crushed Salvatore Caruso 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.

Player anger over smog dominated the final days before the tournament, which is taking place after bushfires ravaged large parts of Australia, destroying thousands of homes and killing 29 people.

Tournament officials are closely monitoring pollution and will halt play and close the three main stadiums’ roofs if particulate matter suspended in the air hits PM2.5 200.

In other results, Canadian 13th seed Denis Shapovalov argued furiously with the umpire over a code violation for throwing his racquet as he lost in four sets to Marton Fucsovics.

Croatian 25th seed Borna Coric was another first-round loser as he went down to experienced American Sam Querrey, while Australia’s Sam Stosur bombed out against Caty McNally.

But former champion Caroline Wozniacki, playing her last tournament before retiring, safely reached the second round as she beat Kristie Ahn 6-1, 6-3.