Springboks backing Bafana Bafana
South Africa's impressive 2-0 victory over Group A rivals New Zealand at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium has won the team new admirers across the country and reignited the belief that Bafana Bafana can still reach the last four of the FIFA Confederation Cup 2009.
Though they still face a tough road ahead, with their last group-stage encounter coming against European champions Spain, South African rugby captain John Smit has stated his belief that the host nation can reach the semi-finals and perhaps even the final of the showpiece event.
"Sure they can do it, the whole country is behind them. This is a very special moment for the country, a very special moment for the history of our sport," said Smit, who captained the Springboks to Rugby World Cup glory in 2007. "This tournament will be an important part of their on-going preparations for the 2010 World Cup. It is important for them to do well against some of the top teams in the world.
A draw against La Roja at Free State Stadium on 20 June would be enough to seal a semi-final berth, to most likely be played at the Ellis Park in Johannesburg: the scene of South Africa's mythical victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand.
And this week the Springboks traded their famous green-and-gold colours for a Bafana Bafana jersey in solidarity with their footballing counterparts - a gesture designed to bridge the long-standing differences between rugby and football fans in South Africa.
"From what we have seen so far the organisers are doing a great job in staging the Confederations Cup in South Africa," said Smit. "Watching on TV these games look no different to what you see at any high-profile international soccer event. The rest of the watching world should have no doubt in South Africa's abilities to host the soccer World Cup next year."
Former International Rugby Board World Player of the Year Bryan Habana also lent his backing to his country's football players, saying it was imperative for the two sport codes to support each other. Meanwhile another Springbok player, Odwa Ndungane, had this to say: "Bafana Bafana look very good and I think they were very unlucky in their opening game. As a nation we must all have the same goal and that is to succeed."