Downs inspire Boks
Mamelodi Sundowns’ continental success has inspired the Springboks ahead of their year-end tour to Europe. While Downs were the toast of the town after they landed in Johannesburg with the African Champions League trophy yesterday ‚ the Boks were on the other side of town planning for their overseas tour. The Boks will take on the Barbarians‚ England‚ Italy and Wales next month. Bok assistant coach Johann van Graan‚ born and bred in Pretoria‚ beamed at the mention of his city’s football club and said the national rugby side could draw inspiration from Masandawana’s continental exploits. “The sky is the limit‚” Van Graan said‚ quoting the popular Sundowns slogan. “What a fantastic achievement. Sundowns’ feat brought back the assistant coach’s own childhood memories of watching the Brazilians in action in Pretoria." “I remember as a little boy watching Sundowns play at Loftus [Versfeld] for the first time a few years back‚” he said. “I remember getting a signed Sundowns ball which is still in my cupboard at home. “As a Pretoria boy, I always followed Sundowns and Super- Sport United.” Witnessing Sundowns’ triumph‚ and also the recent 5-0 One-Day International series win by the Proteas against the Australian cricket side‚ is something that the Bok management hopes will rub off on a Bok side that has had an indifferent year. “It is brilliant to get some positive news – a winning team‚” Van Graan said. “It is fantastic to see people enjoying winning and enjoying something positive." “Well done to them. From the Springboks’ side‚ [we say] what a fantastic achievement. “The Proteas as well‚ they beat Australia 5-0. “As sports people, we like to encourage people and give hope." "They [Sundowns and the Proteas] have given hope to people‚ and that is what we would like to do.” South African Football Association chief Danny Jordaan also praised Sundowns. “We want Sundowns to go to Japan and Bafana Bafana to Russia – to the world cups of club and country,” Jordaan said. Sundowns will become the first South African side to participate in the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan in December‚ while Bafana Bafana will continue their quest for a place in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Jordaan said he was confident the national team could draw strength from Sundowns’ victor y in the same way the 1996 African Cup of Nations-winning Bafana side benefited from the Orlando Pirates team that won the Champions League in 1995. “The last continental trophy we won as South African football was in 1996 at the African Cup of Nations,” he said. “We have not been champions of anything [since]. “The closest we came was with the U17 side that made the final in Senegal‚ and now we have champions again." “It will certainly boost the game just like it did before.” Jordaan also expressed his excitement about Downs breaking new ground by being the first side from South Africa that will take on the world’s best clubs in Japan later this year. “It gives them a huge opportunity. Those are frontiers we have never been in before. It is another first for South African football‚” he said. Meanwhile, Sundowns players and the technical team can expect a little something extra in their Christmas stockings this year after Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula presented them with a cheque for R700 000 yesterday.