Soweto, South Africa, June 14, 2012
The great Springbok rugby star Schalk Burger must be used to many hard hours of training to perfect his top-flight skills, but today’s practice session in Soweto must have been new even to him.
Surrounded by scores of excited young rugby fans at the Laureus-supported Soweto Schools Rugby project, Burger was shown a range of exercises that include one which can only be completed whilst blindfolded.
Burger was visiting the rugby project along with a whole troupe of his Springbok colleagues. These included Ryan Kankowski, Dean Greyling, Gio Aplon, Janò Vermaak, Chilliboy Ralepelle and Lwazi Mvovo.
From first to last, the ‘Boks gave the Sowetan youngsters a day to remember for years to come. Having arrived in an official Springboks tourbus, causing a truly rapturous wave of excitement, the project members were given the thrill of a lifetime as the rugby stars went on to join them in some training drills and touch rugby sessions.
But it was a particularly special day for Burger, who was also celebrating his being announced as the very latest member of the Laureus Ambassador programme by the Chairman of the Laureus Foundation South Africa, Morné du Plessis.
Making the announcement, du Plessis said: “I would like to congratulate Schalk and thank him for taking this on. I am privileged to know Schalk and his family and to know how much they have contributed to all spheres of society. He is a formidable rugby player and I know he will make a major contribution to Laureus and to the work we do with disadvantaged and at-risk young people.”
And on his new appointment, Burger told those present: “I’m honoured to join such a prestigious organisation and look forward to helping them with their amazing charitable work. It’s such a privilege to be able to use sport as a tool for changing young people’s lives and I can’t wait to get started.”
And he was keen to comment on what he made of the project at work, too: “I’m sure I speak on behalf of all the Springbok players here today when I say how impressed we were by this project… It’s all about working together as a team and helping each other through difficult situations, so it was very emotional to feel that our sport can be playing such a positive role for good here”
The visit to the project based at the Tswelelang Primary School in Meadowlands, Soweto came 48 hours before Youth Day, which commemorates the Soweto uprisings of 1976 and honours young people who lost their lives in the struggle against Apartheid.
Making an emotional reference to that day in context to the work of the project, the headmaster of the Primary School, said: “This helps us to remember the contributions those youths made so we can be free today and enjoy these benefits. Previously we would never have access to rugby here in Soweto, but because of them, we have these opportunities. And it is a very special day today. We will remember this for a very long time.”
Laureus are very proud to be commemorating this very special day with people from Soweto and to welcome Schalk into the Laureus family.