Thousands of flag-waving, horn-blowing fans braved rain yesterday to hail South Africa's victorious World Cup rugby squad as they embarked on a four-day national tour.
The Springboks were received by President Thabo Mbeki at the government headquarters in the capital Pretoria before winding their way through packed streets in an open-top bus to Johannesburg.
Tomorrow they are due to visit the former President Nelson Mandela, who famously donned a Springbok jersey the last time they won the World Cup in 1995, just one year after the end of apartheid.
Rugby is still dominated by white players, but there are hopes that last Saturday's 15-9 win over England and the dazzling performances of Bryan Habana may inspire a new generation of black children to embrace the sport.
Springbok management bowed to public pressure and added the black township of Soweto to the tour route yesterday after protests when it was omitted from the itinerary for "logistical reasons".
Tsietsi Louw, an African National Congress MP, had criticised the decision to drop Soweto from the victory parade as "arrogance". "During the finals, the fan parks were filled with black people. Township shebeens ran out of drinks with blacks supporting their team," he said.
The victory tour will also include the central city of Bloemfontein and the coastal cities of Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.Reuse content