Guy Rogers firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE than 300 international rugby players, referees, their assistants and match administrators flew into Port Elizabeth last night for the third leg of the much-anticipated HSBC World Sevens Series which kicks off on Friday.
However there were only a handful of excited fans, along with rugby officials, on hand at the airport to greet them as they arrived at 10pm, almost two hours later than originally scheduled.
But the arrival of the cavalcade on two flights from Dubai via Johannesburg has raised excitement about the weekend rugby extravaganza another notch.
SA Rugby Union spokesman Rayaan Adriaanse said the impending return of Blitzbokke dynamo Cecil Africa, last year’s top try scorer in the IRB Sevens, was adding to the excitement.
Asked at the airport if he was ready for the tournament, Afrika said: “I’ll see how it goes at the training sessions.”
He said, however, his fans could expect a “100% commitment” from him.
After the Bay leg, the teams will have played three tournaments in a row, and will have been on the road for a month – the first year this is happening. The reason for the non-stop tournaments is the inclusion of Japan, meaning there are now nine and not eight legs to the series.
Adriaanse said players would probably be joined by their wives and girlfriends, but there would not be much time for family excursions.
“Only Thursday is set down as a rest day and that’s when some of them might look to explore some of the great places you have in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“But the players all love the beach, so it is quite possible some of them will be grabbing some relaxation time there.”
The best place for fans to connect with the South African team is at Greenacres tomorrow at 5pm. Players will be available to meet and greet fans and sign autographs. On Wednesday, from 2pm to 3pm, the captains of all 16 teams will be available again at Greenacres.
There are still plenty of tickets available for both days of the Bay tournament at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, with prices ranging from R80 to R300. The organisers were hoping for a full house, Adriaanse said.