South African President Cyril Ramaphosa wished the country’s men’s rugby team success ahead of Sunday’s 2019 Rugby World Cup semifinal against Six Nations champions Wales in Yokohama, Japan.
Ramaphosa spoke to Springboks captain Siya Kolisi via video call on Saturday and said he was proud of Kolisi, the team and their performances at the tournament.
“I now know that I don’t have to come and play any role in the squad. I could have wanted to help but I don’t need to help. You guys have done extremely well. We are very proud of you,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa told Kolisi that the entire country was behind the team as it attempts to go one better than it did at the last tournament.
“I really appreciate the call and the support; it really means a lot to us, the team. We’ll do our best tomorrow to make you guys proud like you have been,” Kolisi responded.
Ramaphosa also said that he would personally attend the Rugby World Cup final if South Africa got there.
“I am coming to the final. I am coming to lift that Webb Ellis trophy with you. So, make sure that you book my ticket to the final. I am going to be there,” Ramaphosa said.
His comments echo memories of the late Nelson Mandela, who wore a Springbok jersey, famously lifting the Webb Ellis Cup with the then captain Francois Pienaar after their title-winning campaign on home soil in 1995.
Though South Africa have been labelled favourites for the match, they face a Welsh team which lies one place above them in the World Rugby rankings and, earlier in the year, won the Grand Slam at the Six Nations.
The two teams have met twice at the Rugby World Cup, in 2011 and 2015, with South Africa emerging victorious on both occasions.