“PERSONALLY, I have a lot to work on and improve as the game evolves”, so says the Lions and Springbok player Elton Jantjies.
The shy looking Jantjies spoke to this reporter during the launch of Springboks #StrongerTogether campaign in Pretoria, their camp base.
Looking relaxed and contend after strenuous morning training, he said as one grows everyday pressure and the will to perform at certain standards are some of expectations one faces.
“We pride ourselves for looking up to senior teammates such as the ‘Beast’ who provide guidance and what to do when odds are stacked upon us; and that it means I have to always improve on everything I do whenever I enter any field of play,” said Janjties, who presented this reporter with a specially designed Bok replica WC jersey.
At the same time his captain Siya Kolisi and fellow teammates Duane Vermeulen, Handre Pollard and Malcolm Marx, who were at the ceremony, made an appeal to mzansi to rally behind the team as they set to kick off their all-important 2019 international season.
Boks open their account against Australia at Emirates Stadium, Johannesburg on 20 July for their Castle Lager Rugby Championship, and wrap up the Test with a farewell game against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on August 17 – before departing for the Rugby World Cup against Japan.
The 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 self-effacing coach and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, also emphasized the fans will play an important role at the WC and as such would not want to disappoint.
“Yes, at times plans, formation and our handling will go wrong- but it will be upon us to own up and make amends. That’s what we must and improve from against the Test matches we will be playing. But at the end we must make this country proud and the boys, technical team and the backroom staff knows what’s at stake”, he said.
He also called for open channel communication from the press, players and fans so that “we can be stronger-together”.
Erasmus explained that 15 players will travel to New Zealand this coming week to ensure they have a full week’s preparation in the Land of the Long White Cloud while the coaches and support staff will fly out after the Australian game next weekend.
“You have to do well in Rugby Championships while you are building up to the World Cup. It is a continuous thing- we want to win the Rugby Championship building up towards the World Cup. But again you can’t isolate the two, because that wouldn’t make sense,” he was quoted.
The towering ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, who opted to seat next to me (he dwarfed me) humbly said “this is our time to make our country proud and that assignment begins next week against the Aussies”.
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. For more information go to the Boks website.
Media who attended the campaign launch were handed a Springbok jersey – featuring their face in a number – in a specially constructed locker room at the hotel.
Meanwhile, the players and the technical team also send their heartfelt messages of condolences to the family and friends of fallen gallant James Small, who passed away this week.
Image SLM (SLM lensman Mdu Mphahlele (left) receiving a replica WC jersey and thumbs up from Boks captain Siya Kolisi at the Springboks #StrongerTogether campaign launch at Pretoria hotel).