CAPE TOWN, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- South African Rugby Union (SA Rugby) President Mark Alexander on Wednesday paid tribute to the national team for winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, saying what it achieved "is truly exceptional."
The team, also known as the Springboks, returned home on Tuesday and were met by more than 10,000 supporters at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, all of whom were there to get a glimpse of their heroes and the Webb Ellis Cup.
"To see thousands of South Africans take hands, sing, dance and rejoice at their achievement yesterday, warmed my heart and gave me hope for our wonderfully diverse country," Alexander said.
The Springboks beat England 32-12 at the International Stadium Yokohama, Tokyo on Saturday to lift the William Webb-Ellis trophy. It was the third time in history that the Springboks have won the cup.
A few years ago, South Africa was languishing low down on the world rankings, but it is number one now - for the first time in 10 years, Alexander said.
He said there was much to look forward to in the next few years in South African rugby, with the game at a positive point in its history, "but that hard work awaits to ensure we remain consistent."
"It's exciting times for rugby in our country - in two years' time we welcome the British & Irish Lions to South Africa in what will be a typically tough and uncompromising series, and in 2022 we're hosting the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town," he said.
On-field success would not be possible without the backing from millions of South Africans off the field, said Alexander.
"None of this would have been possible without the support of our family of sponsors, many of whom put their trust in us when times were tough and friends were few," he said.
Also on Wednesday, the government urged continued support for the Springboks during their country-wide bus tour.
The Springboks will kick off their "Champions Tour" with the Webb Ellis Cup on Thursday.