Four Springbok fans in Japan have accepted Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi’s apology after he incorrectly accused one of them of wearing an old South African flag at the Rugby World Cup semi-final against Wales over the weekend.
And the men want South Africans to unite, not to be divided, as South Africa gears up to face England in the final on Saturday.
“We don’t want to make any negative waves and it was obviously a misunderstanding,” Neels Swanepoel told News24 on behalf of the group on Monday.
“We want the whole nation to unite behind the flag and behind the boys. The apology is obviously accepted and let’s just all move on.”
Swanepoel said they never expected to be in the news.
While happy to share their photos from the trip, he asked that the other three men not be named so the story did not become all about them.
The Faf Squad in Japan (Supplied, Neels Swanepoel)
The four, who also witnessed the semi-final live against Japan, call themselves the “Faf Squad” or the “Four Fafs” and have attended games with their green and gold attire, blonde wigs and flags.
“It’s just a show of solidarity to the Springboks in general and to little Faf de Klerk. He’s our man,” chuckled Swanepoel, speaking as they tried to navigate their way across the Japanese countryside in the dark.
“Not one of us have a physical profile of a scrummy – just call us a bunch of out of shape Fafs.”
Lesufi had incorrectly said they were carrying the old flag. He tweeted a screenshot of them, saying: “That flag, unfortunately is spoiling it! This team @Springboks belongs to all of us. Let’s avoid hurting each other unnecessarily. #StrongerTogether.”
Many people were confused because one of the men was actually donning the new South African flag. The red and white colours were visible below his waist, while the black, yellow and green colours were draped over his left shoulder.
“It’s a brand new flag out of the bag so we’re really sorry that the red bit could have looked orange to somebody,” said Swanepoel.
“It was obviously completely unintentional.”
Lesufi apologised on Sunday evening.
He tweeted: “Sincere apologies fellow South Africans [.] the initial angle was completely wrong! Let’s celebrate the team’s win @Springboks Forward with social cohesion. We are better together than divided! Apartheid flag divides South African flag unites! Slaan hulle die volgende week!”
(Supplied, Neels Swanepoel)
The men said their trip for work and pleasure had been quite an adventure.
“Obviously there is the rugby on the one hand but the Japanese people have been absolutely incredible and the country and hospitality are amazing,” said Swanepoel.
“As is being able to support to support our Captain [Siya] Kolisi and his brave warriors, as the Japanese call the Boks.”
They will be cheering for the country in the stands for the final and are crossing fingers that South Africa [will] bring the cup home.
“It’s not going to be easy but we are sure the guys will give their best. With a coach like Rassie [Erasmus] and a captain like Siya and all the other boys, it’s the best chance to hope for a win.”
The Springboks will face off against England on Saturday at 11:00 local time, in their bid to bring home the Webb Ellis Cup.