Springboks quietly maul France

South Africa's rugby union world champs rip France apart 42-17 in shadow of football fever.

    France had never previously lost at Newlands before their battering on Saturday [GALLO/GETTY]

    The all-conquering Springboks demolished France 42-17 in their rugby union Test but victorious captain John Smit said his team were more than content to stay in the shadows of the football World Cup in a country obsessed with both sports.

    South Africa's Bafana Bafana footballers had somewhat slinked on to stage as nervous hosts of the sport's biggest party the previous day before eventually finding their feet and earning a creditable point from a 1-1 draw with Mexico.

    In total contrast the Springboks, as world and Tri-Nations champions, swaggered on to the Newlands pitch in Cape Town absolutely certain of their place and duly tore France, the European champions who were previously unbeaten there, to shreds.

    After France's footballers had been held to a goalless draw by outsiders Uruguay across the city on Friday night it completed a miserable weekend for the French but a memorable one for South African sport.

    "The World Cup is everywhere," Smit said.

    "I think there were a lot of people waiting for us to get it wrong but it's happened and in a glorious manner.

    "The people in the streets ... the games have been fantastic – my heart stopped five times watching Bafana, especially when they hit the post.

    "We'll be behind our boys every step of the way. I've felt it this whole week, we've played second fiddle and happily so.

    "Every South African is more worried about Bafana and so they should be."

    Poles apart

    The sights and sounds of the two sports remain poles apart.

    Newlands, like all South African venues on match day, is clouded by the smoke of hundreds of brais (barbeques).


    Fans bring their own food and ice boxes groaning with beer to enjoy before and after any big match.

    There was not a vuvuzela in sight – or earshot – with the only horn being the traditional Springbok trumpeted clarion call answered with a one-off roar.

    Of course, the overwhelming difference remains the ethnicity of the majority of the audience.

    There were thousands of white faces at Green Point for the football on Friday and a fair sprinkling of black at Newlands but rugby remains a sport still predominantly followed by whites while the country's black majority gravitate towards the round ball.

    In 1995 South Africa hosted the rugby World Cup, their first major event since the end of apartheid, and the black masses, previously known to support visiting teams against an all-white Springbok side, tentatively began to get on board.

    They were helped by then-President Nelson Mandela's iconic gesture of wearing a replica of Francois Piennar's number six jersey as he presented the trophy to the victorious home captain after their Johannesburg success.

    The call was for the Rainbow Nation to get together behind all their sports teams and, despite some disagreements over a positive discrimination policy designed to deliver a more multicultural national rugby team, there has been progress.

    Fans soaking up the atmosphere around Newlands, dismissed suggestions that there was still a racial divide.

    "We love rugby but we love sport and we love South Africa – we'll support our team whether it's rugby, soccer or tiddly winks," 40-year-old fan Simon van Rensburg told the Reuters news agency.

    "Generations have been brought up doing this (partying outside the ground) but everyone watches the (English) Premier League on TV these days and there has been more talk today about the World Cup than the Springboks."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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