The Springboks have welcomed Hamilton as the venue for Saturday’s crucial Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks as a means of showcasing SA’s progress since the end of apartheid.
The showdown between the two Titans of world rugby is being played on the same ground where anti-apartheid protestors stormed the field in 1981 to force the abandonment of the Springboks’ match against the provincial Waikato side.
It was an era when contact with predominantly white SA teams was discouraged.
Springbok captain John Smit said the significance of the protest in the republic’s rugby and political history has not been lost on his mixed-race side and their first black coach Peter de Villiers. “Now we’ve got an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come since 1981 as a country, and to celebrate that in no better way than using rugby playing for our country against the All Blacks who are our greatest foe,” he said.
“So it’s a wonderfully positive thing to be able to do so and see how far as a country we’ve come in a short period of time.” The Springboks go into the match with a nine-point lead in the Tri-Nations championship and even if they lose but get a bonus point for finishing within seven of the All Blacks it should be enough for them to secure the crown.
The All Blacks, however, need bonus point wins against SA and again against Australia in the final match next weekend to have a chance of retaining the title they have held for the past four years.
But Smit said looking back at the history of the Springboks at Waikato Stadium will not be used as a pre-match motivating factor. “Saturday will certainly only be about rugby. I think what’s helped us go forward as a country is that we’ve focused on all the positive things and all the things we can have an effect on now, in the present, and try and make sure we go forward in a positive way.
“By focusing solely on the game and on each other and on representing our country that will be a testament to the direction we’ve taken as a country since that time.” The Springboks, who delayed their arrival in Hamilton until Thursday evening, visited the stadium on Friday for their final training run before the Test. — Sapa-AFP