Visit by Springbok World Cup champions ‘transcends rugby’

Current Rugby World Cup champions South Africa have confirmed that they will train in Jersey ahead of their autumn international fixtures Picture: PA IMAGES

THE reigning Rugby World Cup champions are set to become the latest blockbuster outfit to train in Jersey, following in the footsteps of both England and the British & Irish Lions in recent years.

But their “visit goes far beyond rugby” according to Strive Health Club’s managing director, Ben Harvey.

South Africa, who held aloft the Webb Ellis Cup in 2023 for the fourth time, will base themselves at Jersey Rugby Club and Harvey’s Strive this coming October, in preparation forthis year’s autumn internationals.

While Strive’s state-of-the-art facilities alongside Jersey Rugby Club are an obvious pull for top sports outfits, Harvey believes it is the people who sell the Island to visitors.

“It’s hard to comprehend how important visits by top professional teams are to Jersey.

“It really does put us on the map.

“During the Lions visit, the combined estimated added value in terms of advertising spend was £8.5 million across the ten days they were here, a figure quantified by Visit Jersey.

“There is a deeper benefit, alongside how vital it is for our children, who are passionate about sport, to see that these great athletes are human and there is a path for them to dream big.

“The teams that have visited in the past all say the same thing: ‘The people are so welcoming and hospitable.’

“That’s our unique selling point. It’s something I was certainly aware of when I moved to Jersey and it’s abundantly clear to those who visit.”

The Springboks and their fans are an incredibly proud and tight-knit family.

During the 2023 Rugby World Cup, you would be hard-pressed to find a single Jersey-based South African who was not living and breathing the Springboks’ historic journey in France.

In a country that has endured tumultuous times over recent history, those who have donned and continue to wear the famous green and gold have played a monumental role in patching a country, so desperately in need, back together.

That shirt – once reserved only for those with white skin – has become a beacon of light for South Africa and a growing symbol of togetherness.

Harvey added: “30 years ago marked the country’s first black president. You fast forward to the present day and the Springboks have their first black captain in Siya Kolisi, who has quickly become one of rugby’s most adored figures, both on and off the pitch.

“If you ask any South African if they are a Springbok fan, almost every single one of them, male or female, will give a resounding yes.

“That’s the priceless gift that Nelson Mandela gave a population of nearly 60 million.

“It is an identity, lived through a rugby team, which is so unique and special.

“From Kolisi, to Makazole Mapimpi, who became the first South African to score a try in a World Cup Final, both have incredible stories in terms of battling through hardship and navigating difficult backgrounds, with the odds stacked against them.

“So for a little island like ours to be able to host such amazing people, it’s a privilege.

“I firmly believe that our children will be able to draw inspiration from their journeys and use them to fuel their own aspirations.

“My personal dream when we built Strive, was to try and create something that would benefit local children and also provide a platform for them to pursue their chosen sport to the highest level.

“We now have a very unique experience to introduce young Islanders to people who have been on that journey, in flesh and blood.

“We are really excited to have the Springboks here and I’m sure there will be a massive buzz around all of Jersey during their visit.”

In anticipation of Kolisi and co’s arrival, work has already begun to improve the pitch at CoinShares Park, through a combination of private funding from Strive and the Government of Jersey.

“Our facilities can always be improved and it has been a bone of contention for a number of years locally,” added Harvey.

“To be able to improve the pitch at Jersey Rugby Club, will be massively helpful, not just for South Africa’s standard of training, but also leaves behind a wonderful playing surface for our amateur clubs to take into their respective seasons.”

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