The Springbok Sevens team had an emotional capping ceremony on Thursday, only hours before the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament kicks off in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium and the South Africans face hosts Russia in Pool B of the competition.
Mr Oregan Hoskins, President of the South African Rugby Union (SARU), asked captain Kyle Brown and his team to "keep Madiba in their hearts" as they ran out in their effort to win the Melrose Cup for the first time.
Mr Hoskins and SARU CEO Jurie Roux took part in a ceremony where the 12 squad members were given their caps and match jerseys.
“We as rugby people owe former President Mandela so much and it would be very fitting if we can win this title with the Springbok emblem on our jerseys, the badge of honour former president Mandela was so keen to protect,” Mr Hoskins said.
“We all know he is not well, so a good performance here will be a fine way to show support to his legacy as the father of the nation and a custodian of rugby.”
Springbok Sevens captain, Kyle Brown, who will incidentally be wearing the number six on his back, just as Francois Pienaar in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in South Africa, said his team are ready to confront their destiny.
“It is a massive honour for us standing here. We know we represent so many back home. There are others who are good enough to be here, but could not, like the injured Frankie Horne and Paul Delport, and we owe it to all South African players to just give our best and leave nothing out there,” said Brown.
According to Brown, they are physically and mentally ready.
“The hard work has been done, our magnificent coaching staff and the support staff and families back home have done their bit to get us ready and now is the time for us to deliver. We accept the responsibilities of playing for our country at a World Cup and will try and embrace the challenge,” Brown said.
South Africa play Russia at 17h14 (South African time) in their Pool B match.