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RWC helps broaden South African-NZ relationship

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Rugby World Cup is proving an excellent vehicle for broadening the New Zealand and South African relationship says the Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation for the Republic, Mr Gert Oosthuizen.

In an interview prior to leaving Wellington to return to South Africa yesterday , he said the people of the two countries shared a similar passion for Rugby and with sporting relationships so good the RWC provided a chance to broaden other aspects of bi-lateral relations.

"We've signed a co-operation agreement for the film industry, initiated business to business exchanges through a trade and investment function and are using our cultural centre, Ekhaya, in Wellington to stimulate New Zealanders' interest in visiting us.

"There are thousands of South Africans in New Zealand who have come to support their team in the RWC. The atmosphere is great. They are having a good time in the normal hustle and bustle that accompanies the tournament. They know the passion Kiwis have for the game and that everyone wants to beat us. But I'm pleased to be able to say that we have no metal fatigue!"

Mr Oosthuizen who has been a regular attendee at RWC tournaments during the past two decades said a major difference for the visiting teams in New Zealand was that by the time the pool stages finished all teams were well acclimatized to local conditions.

"The RWC provides far different mental and physical challenges than either the Super series or tri-nations matches. We saw this in France and in South Africa. The intensity when the tournament starts is high but it dies away a little before the quarter-finals which are when conditioning and mental preparation become key factors. With the greatest respect to New Zealand, the trick is to peak at World Cups.

"There's always huge pleasure in hosting the RWC. The expectation of local people is that their team will win; must pull it off. So you have to manage that level of expectation."

Mr Oosthuizen said South Africa had similar problems to those in New Zealand in maintaining the health of club and schools Rugby since the advent of the professional game.

"We have to accept that it is the professional side of the sport that grows the audience through television and makes stadiums profitable. But we have also to strike a balance that ensures people have access to playing the game at club and schools level.

"In areas where access and facilities are proving to be a challenge, modified sport like 'Bulletjies Rugby' concept provides for kids six years and upwards to play. Where this is done it seems to be successful. Let me say, there is no replacement for school sport - that is the bedrock of development."

He said he planned to return to Auckland to see the Springboks play in the semi-final and final - "and I can tell you that if we're in the final, the President would not miss it for anything."

Reminded that South Africa is scheduled to meet the All Blacks in the semi-final if both teams win their prior matches, he added: "The President will be at the final!"

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