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The Rugby World Cup champions arrived to a massive turnout in Nelson Mandela Bay, ahead of their scheduled victory tour in Port Elizabeth.

Thousands of supporters and well-wishers gathered, first at the Port Elizabeth Airport on Saturday afternoon, and more came on Sunday.

The first crowd to enjoy the champions gathered in front of the City Hall, braving the harsh weather conditions in the morning on Sunday, waving flags and singing songs of celebration.

Siya Kolisi and his team arrived under heavy police and security protection, when they made their way to the City Hall.

The crowds got the feel of the Webb Ellis Cup, as Kolisi walked in carrying it and placed it on the podium for everyone to see.

“We love you, Siya Kolisi,” said a young boy standing in the front row.

Waving his flag and wearing his green jersey, he stood in awe, as Kolisi addressed the crowds.

“We’d like to thank you for the support, we really appreciate it,” he said to the screaming crowds.

Many thousands of fans stood by the roadsides throughout the tour route.

Braving the rain, people lined the streets and some came out of their churches to ensure that they wave and blew kisses.

“Uphi uKolisi? (Where is Kolisi?)” they shouted.

The 38-car and bus entourage carrying the team, staff, and municipality officials drove through the streets of the Nelson Mandela Bay, often forced to slow down, due to the density of the crowds on the streets.

In New Brighton and KwaZakhele – the oldest townships of Nelson Mandela Bay – the crowds jogged next to the bus for more than 40km into KwaZakhele.

The crowds grew on the main roads of Zwide, where Siya Kolisi comes from.

The convoy was engulfed by thick crowds of supporters who were screaming for their son, Kolisi.

“Siya! Siya! Siya! Siya!” they screamed as they ran next to the entourage.

Motherwell fans gathered in the same spot where Mandela was welcomed almost 30 years ago.

They filled the streets and quickly spotted the absence of their captain, who had to go to Cape Town for a sports award.

More disappointment would follow, as the multitudes of crowds in Greenacres Mall missed out on the fun enjoyed by the rest of the city.

The bus carrying the team sped through the crowds, although it had initially been intended to stop for signing of Bokke regalia and rugby balls.

On the other side of the city, disappointed residents of the Northern Areas resorted to burning tyres and old furniture.

Police had to manage the traffic and discourage people from driving past Stanford Road, in the Helenvale area.

They said stones had been thrown from some houses near the road and that motorists had been at risk.

“We can’t say don’t go, but just be assured that your safety is not guaranteed – the people here are angry the Springboks bus didn’t drive through here after they had waited for so long,” said an unidentified Tactical Response Team (TRT) guard on duty.

There was disappointment in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, where the bus was also a no-show.

Tamsanqa Mbovane, a resident of KwaNobuhle, said people were very disappointed that they had missed the bus.

“The people are angry here. They were waiting for the bus to come through. Why did it not come?” he asked.

He said, although he understood they could not reach everyone, “many people, both children and adults were disappointed.

“They waited in numbers and for a long time to see them.”

Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Mongameli Bobani could not contain his excitement during the tour.

“I’m truly humbled and excited that such a magical moment is taking place during my time of leadership in the Nelson Mandela Bay – the showers of rain have also confirmed that this is indeed an exceptional blessing,” he said.

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