WATCH | Springboks’ Nelson Mandela Bay Blitz
Jubilation characterised by vuvuzelas, singing and loud cheers were the order of the weekend as Nelson Mandela Bay welcomed the Springboks.
Thousands of Bay residents, some having been at their stations from 8am on Sunday, took to the streets to give the 2019 Rugby World Cup champions a warm welcome to the home of captain Siya Kolisi, coach Rassie Erasmus and backline coach Mzwandile Stick.
The overcast weather did little to deter fans as they lined the streets of the metro, clad in their green and gold and armed with posters and vuvuzelas, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Boks.
An electric atmosphere followed the team’s tour bus as residents embraced the festive feeling that accompanied the rare opportunity of seeing their heroes in the flesh — welcoming the team to their respective areas with song, dance and screams which brought the metro to life on Sunday.
However, while jubilant scenes continued to unfold throughout the Bay — as the tour bus made its way from the City Hall to Zwide, Despatch, Uitenhage, Motherwell, Greenacres and then the airport — the day was marred by disappointment for many.
The Boks were forced to deviate from the planned route schedule, leaving thousands of fans in the northern areas and Uitenhage’s KwaNobuhle and Rosedale communities without a glimpse of their heroes.
As a result, residents in the northern areas vented their frustration in the streets, burning tyres and blocking off roads, while others — including Uitenhage residents — had their say on social media, flooding Facebook with comments about their anger and disappointment at not having seen the team during the trophy tour.
Shortly after the Bay leg of the tour concluded, the Springboks apologised to residents of the northern areas after the trophy tour skipped several scheduled stops along the route due to time constraints.
The Springboks said via social media: “Humble apologies to the northern areas of PE today who missed out on our planned visit.
“Massive crowds, congestion and a waiting flight to Cape Town meant an unavoidable last-minute route change. We are as disappointed as you, and we do apologise sincerely.”
The team kicked off the tour at Vuyisile Mini Square in front of the City Hall shortly after 9am, where hundreds of supporters gathered to welcome them despite wet and chilly weather.
Welcoming the team to the city, Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani said: “We are excited that the boys are home.
“Today they came with a cup and this cup belongs here in Nelson Mandela Bay.”
The mayor embraced the team alongside ANC councillor Andile Lungisa, sports MEC Fezeka Bayeni and Eastern Cape deputy speaker Mlibo Qoboshiyane.
“This is the last leg of their visit in the Eastern Cape — we are here to say cheers and wish them a good journey to the Western Cape. Forward Bokke!” Qoboshiyane said.
Fans at the City Hall cheered and ululated as Kolisi took to the stage to lift the trophy while fellow player Faf de Klerk showed off his famous proudly South African swimming briefs.
Among the singing crowd at City Hall was Ludwe Bomali, who had travelled from New Brighton at 8am to meet the team.
“We are very proud of what this team has done and the first person to thank for that is Rassie [Erasmus], who is at the helm.
“I could not wait for them to go to New Brighton so I decided to join them here where they were welcomed for the first time today,” Bomali said.
The people of Zwide were overjoyed to see one of their own — Kolisi — lifting the Webb Ellis Cup as the team drove through the township where Kolisi grew up.
The Boks were welcomed with singing and screams from thousands of fans.
“I am so happy to see Siya holding that trophy. The Springboks’ latest victory has united so many people,” Zwide’s Nyameka Dyani said.
But the mood soured in Uitenhage, as fans were left despondent after route changes.
A visibly disappointed Siphelele Xaka, 18, said he would have loved to have see the Boks as he had not yet been born in 1995.
“I was hoping to see the cup and feel what other people felt in 1995 as people keep on comparing this moment to then.
“I really don’t know if they take us cheap in KwaNobuhle or what because Zwide is close so they could have come here,” he said.
Disgruntled supporters in the northern areas complained.
“It’s very wrong that they’ve excluded our people like this when there are so many rugby supporters in the northern areas,” Helenvale’s Herzron Damons said.
“They spent so much time with the people of Motherwell, Zwide and other townships that side but they couldn’t even include one stop here.
“The people are very angry here and it will not stop.”
Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said police could not confirm whether the protesting in the northern areas on Sunday afternoon was connected to the Boks deciding to give the area a skip.
Labans said Gail Road in Gelvandale, right up to 3rd Avenue, had been closed by the police due to tyres being burnt.
Following the eventful day, the Boks returned to the Port Elizabeth International Airport — where on Saturday they arrived to hundreds of fans, including a group of Xhosa traditional dancers and drummers — to depart for the final leg of their trophy tour in Cape Town.
An electric atmosphere followed the team’s tour bus in Nelson Mandela Bay as residents embraced the festive feeling that accompanied the rare opportunity of seeing their heroes in the flesh.