South African skipper Jean de Villiers ‘humbled’ by Eastbourne welcome ceremony

Eastbourne Rugby Club  juniors provide a guard of honour for the South Africans
Eastbourne Rugby Club juniors provide a guard of honour for the South Africans

South African Rugby captain Jean de Villiers admitted it was a humbling experience as they received a warm Eastbourne welcome at the Winter Garden today (Sunday).

Crowds lined-up the street in the rain to attend the ceremony that saw the Sringboks receive their presentation caps and participation medals by Eastbourne Rugby 2015.

On arrival the South Africans were given a guard of honour by the juniors from Eastbourne Rugby Club before the Eastbourne College choir took to the stage and performed a beautiful version of World in Union.

Vice chairman of World Rugby Oregan Hoskins, RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie and mayor of Eastbourne Janet Coles also took to the stage to address more than 1000 rugby fans who packed inside the Winter Gardens.

Crowds who couldn’t attend the ceremony also gathered outside hoping to grab a picture and a few autographs of the World Cup stars as they left.

De Villiers said, “It is a humbling experience to be here and occasions like this are what make the Rugby World Cup such an unbelievable experience.

“We are here to win the World Cup but while we are here we want to meet as many people as we can and make some new friends and hopefully make a difference to people’s lives.”

He also allowed time for a quick dig at the Eastbourne weather. “We heard Eastbourne had the most amount of sun in the UK but I think we must have missed that hour.”

South Africa’s most capped player Victor Matfield, who came out of retirement to play in his fourth World Cup added, “I saw the rain this morning and I thought there would only be a few people attending.

“But we were all blown away by the welcome we received in Eastbourne. It was very inspiring for us and I hope they all enjoyed the occasion too.”

Mayor Janet Coles added, “It’s great to finally welcome the South African team to our town. We wish them all the best of luck and we hope they get to the finals - although I not going to say I want them to progress further than that!”

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