Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen, Elton Jantjies, Malcolm Marx and a number of their Springbok team mates made a passionate appeal to South Africans to throw their considerable weight behind the men in Green and Gold as they get set to kick off the all-important 2019 international season.
Together with Rassie Erasmus, the Director of Rugby, they gave South African media an unforgettable experience at a special event in Pretoria to mark the launch of the Springboks’ #StrongerTogether campaign.
“What the Springboks need to know is that their country is behind them, that their fellow South Africans are backing them – no matter which player is representing them on the rugby field,” said Erasmus.
“To know that your country has got your back is the only motivation to lift these players that they need – and that’s the major aim of the #StrongerTogether campaign. As a team we know when we that Together we are Stronger. And we know that as country South Africa is Stronger when it’s Together.
“Our job as players and management is to produce a winning Springbok team to lift our people and bring people Together. And with the sense that the country is at our backs we can do it. This campaign is not just about a rugby team, it’s about a country.”
At the centre-piece of the campaign is a television commercial capturing the pride, effort and emotion that goes into becoming a Springbok, but it is also mirrored by the pride and joy of ordinary South Africans in their country.
Kolisi, the Springbok captain, said: “This is not just a Springbok campaign – it is a South African campaign to galvanise the public not just behind their team but behind their country. It’s not just the Springboks who rise early, work hard, sweat and shed blood on the field.
“There are millions of South Africans, hard-working everyday people – whose names we will never know – who rise early, doing what they have to do so that they can provide for their families.
“This campaign is for you – the taxi driver, mine worker, blue collar worker, nurses and doctors, teachers, engineers, students – all ordinary South Africans who do what they do to make this country stronger.”
The Springbok season kicks off next Saturday (20 July) with a Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against Australia at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
To underline the message of togetherness the numbers on the players’ jerseys will be constructed from the faces of South Africans – entertainers, business and media people, radio and television personalities, rugby writers and the players’ close family members.
Any South African stands a chance to get their face on a Springbok jersey – at no charge – by registering here as part of the Faces on Numbers campaign which will run into the Rugby World Cup.
Media who attended the launch were handed a Springbok jersey – featuring their face in a number – in a specially constructed locker room at the Springbok hotel on Thursday.
Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard told the gathering of his emotions around wearing the jersey: “The honour of representing my country is something I don’t ever take lightly,” he said.
“Every time I put on this jersey, I know that it could be my last. It’s why I will do my best to bring honour to this jersey, and when I do give up this jersey, I plan to leave it in a better place for the next number 10 to wear.”
Hard-as-nails Duane Vermeulen recalled his experiences of donning the Springbok No 8 jersey on the world stage: “I’ve played for different rugby teams around the world, and I’ve come to realise that a team that plays for a good supporter base wins a lot of games,” he said.
“As Springboks, we don’t just play for each other, we play for every South African around the world. The colour we are doesn’t matter, what matters is the colours we’re wearing. I hope all South Africans will wear their jerseys with pride and rally behind us. That’s what makes us #StrongerTogether.”
The Springboks will play their Farewell Test – before departing for the Rugby World Cup against Japan – against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on 17 August.