Bay’s big Bok bash
Captain Kolisi urges national team to do it for Madiba as special tribute is prepared at stadium to celebrate global icon’s legacy
Proud Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and his team want to celebrate the legacy of Nelson Mandela and reward Eastern Cape fans for their unwavering support by delivering a prized victory over the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The countries are playing for the Nelson Mandela Challenge Shield and the clash will commemorate the life of the iconic statesman who would have turned 100 this year.
I am always excited to come homeZwide-born Siya Kolisi
For the Boks, nothing would be more fitting than to honour Mandela in the stadium named after him. And for tourism and the hospitality trade in the Bay, the influx of rugby fans is a huge spin-off.
The match starts at 5.05pm and the sellout 46,000-strong crowd have been asked to take their seats by 4pm, when there will be a special pre-match tribute to Madiba.
“I am always excited to come home,” Zwide-born Kolisi said.
“To be here is an honour and I always enjoy playing in Port Elizabeth. We understand how big this match is.
“However, the nice thing about this team is that we always focus the most on the game itself.
“If we can get a win it will make everything else even more special. “But the big thing for us is to ensure that we perform properly against Australia.”
Rugby fever has been raging in the Bay since the Boks arrived in the city last week. Stadium manager Mpho Mokonyama, of the Mandela Bay Development Agency, said with hotels and flights booked up, thousands will be bringing an electric atmosphere as the Boks attempt to stretch their unbeaten record to six matches at the venue.
Interest in the game peaked after the Boks pulled off a stunning upset win over the All Blacks in their last game in Wellington, New Zealand.
“We are playing at a stadium where we have a great track record and there are always good crowds,” Bok coach Rassie Erasmus said.
“I grew up close to Port Elizabeth [Despatch] so I know about the passion here and the great support.
The Boks want to reward that support with a win over Australia.” Assistant Springbok coach Mzwandile Stick, also born in Port Elizabeth, said the city had rolled out the red carpet for the Boks.
I grew up close to Port Elizabeth [Despatch] so I know about the passion here and the great supportRassie Erasmus
“The people of the Eastern Cape really love their rugby and they’ve given us unbelievable support whenever the team has played here,” he said.
“This is a special time in our country and Nelson Mandela would have been 100 years old this year. So it is a historic occasion for the team to play at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
“There is a real buzz around the place and Port Elizabeth has a special place in my heart,” the former Southern Kings coaching staff member said.
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said it was fitting that the teams would be playing for the Nelson Mandela Challenge Shield.
“Historically speaking, we always get big crowds at Tests in Port Elizabeth and as we are celebrating the legacy of Madiba at this match, there is great interest in the Test.
“Madiba would’ve turned 100, along with Ma Albertina Sisulu, who was also born in 1918 – it’s a year when we will celebrate the centenary of two SA icons.” Roux said a Test match against the Wallabies for the Mandela Challenge Shield at this venue was an appropriate way to do this.
Fiery Bok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk said he enjoys visiting Port Elizabeth.
“I have always enjoyed playing at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium,” De Klerk said.
“It is always a bit of a laidback experience for us here in the Bay. The people are friendly and welcoming.
“There is no added pressure, not having lost here. Maybe it gives you a bit more confidence. We just want to improve on our previous game.”
Mokonyama said that after the Boks’ stellar performance against world champions New Zealand, their fans can expect a nail-biting clash.
“Preparations are taking place on all fronts – for fans, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium