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Thousands greet world champions South Africa

South Africa's Siya Kolisi holds up the trophy as fans welcome the South African Springboks team on their arrival at Johannesburg airport, South Africa, Tuesday 31 Oct. 2023   -  
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Thomas Mukoya/AP

2023 Rugby World Cup

World champions South Africa arrived back in the country on Tuesday to a heroes’ welcome, following a feat that saw them defend their Rugby World Cup title after beating New Zealand 12-11 in the 2023 final at the Stade de France in Paris, France on Saturday.

Thousands of Springboks supporters braved the cold and wet weather to gather at O.R. Tambo International Airport to welcome home the squad, as South Africa became first nation to lift the Rugby World Cup on four occasions.

The crowds went into a frenzy as Springboks captain Siya Kolisi entered the arrivals terminal hoisting the Webb Ellis trophy surrounded by the rest of his team-mates.

It was a colourful affair, with many donning their green and gold Springboks jerseys, waving South Africa flags and holding up placards bearing congratulatory messages for the squad.

Supporters wearing Springbok jerseys or any South Africa colours were allowed to travel for free on the Gautrain train service to the airport, where traffic leading to the main terminals was jammed throughout the morning.

A South Africa Police Service band performed the national anthem and other iconic South Africa songs welcomed the squad back into the country.

The Springboks arrived the day after South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa officially declared a public holiday for 15th December to honour the team’s victory.

A four-day victory parade has been planned to celebrate the Boks’ victory in the major cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban, where supporters will get a glimpse of the Webb Ellis trophy.

Captain Kolisi, who has become a cult figure after leading the team to a World Cup victory for the second time in a row, was among the players who received the loudest cheers from the fans as the squad arrived at the international arrivals terminal.

The squad's victory tour will begin on Thursday.