The first Asian Rugby World Cup was comparable to the first African Rugby World Cup in 1995 with a new Springbok team capable of writing its own history, the team’s official welcoming ceremony was told on Saturday in Tokyo.
Brett Gosper, the CEO of World Rugby, welcomed the Springboks to the tournament at a cultural event which culminated in a team capping and told the audience that he sensed a rising Springbok tide.
He said that the Springboks had contributed much to Rugby World Cup history: “From the Mandela Match in 1995 with Francois Pienaar, and victory again in France in 2007 and the match that was referred to as the Miracle in Brighton in 2015,” he said.
“What I can sense about this team is the rising capability that you are going to write your own history.
“I am sure that you will be great ambassadors during this Rugby World Cup and inspire a generation of players not only in your own country but across the world.
“This medal and cap symbolises the sacrifices you have made to get here and will together recall the lifelong memories and friendships that you will make during this Rugby World Cup.”
Siya Kolisi, Springbok captain, thanked World Rugby and Japan 2019 for the preparations and lengths to which they had gone to prepare the tournament and provide for every need of the team.
“This may be our official welcoming ceremony but we have been here for 14 days and we have been made to feel welcome every single day,” said Kolisi.
“The kindness and hospitality shown by the Japanese people has been amazing and I am sure we are in for an unforgettable Rugby World Cup.”
During the welcome ceremony at the Urayasu City Cultural Hall the team was treated to a display of Japanese sword fighting and traditional music and a shishimai lion dance.
Team members Lukhanyo Am and Jesse Kriel were also invited on stage to paint the eye of a Daruma doll. The tradition is that the painter makes a wish during the painting of the first eye – and when the wish is realised the second eye is painted.
The Daruma doll was decorated in South Africa’s colours and was presented to the team.
The Springboks’ opening match of the tournament is against defending champions New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday.
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