Brian O' Driscoll Humbled by South African Township Visit
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Created at 05/29/2009 - 03:24
BRIAN O’Driscoll has welcomed the British and Irish Lions’ visit to community grass-roots rugby in South Africa.
O’Driscoll, three of his Lions’ team-mates, assistant coach Shaun Edwards and manager Gerald Davies arrived by helicopter at Masibambane College in the Johannesburg township of Orange Farm, 30 miles south of the city.
They were greeted by hundreds of singing and dancing pupils before Davies officially opened a new sports pitch on the college site, which has been a major project for Lions’ sponsors HSBC.
“Today has been great and a really humbling experience,” said Ireland captain O’Driscoll.
“This is the first time I have really been to a township, and the response of the kids has been phenomenal.
“Lions tours are about trying to win a Test series, but something like today has maybe been got away from a little during the last couple of tours.
“It puts everything into perspective. Rugby is our livelihood, but it is only a sport.
“When you see the excitement generated by five of the Lions turning up and getting involved and then seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, it is a memory that will last with me for a long time.”
The new college pitch includes some turf from Ellis Park in Johannesburg, the venue for the Lions’ third Test against South Africa on July 4.
College pupils initiated the pitch with a tag rugby match involving the Lions’ players, while the players – O’Driscoll, Gethin Jenkins, Nathan Hines and Ugo Monye – also planted trees around the outside of the pitch.
Davies added: “This is a fantastic legacy project, and spending time in the community is an integral part of any Lions tour.
“It is essential that we do it. Sport, generally, must go beyond the arena that it is played in, and this has been an extraordinary experience.”
Davies, meanwhile, welcomed the positive fitness bulletin issued by Cardiff Blues about their Wales’ wing Lee Halfpenny, who is on course to link up with the Lions next week.
Halfpenny remained at home for intensive treatment on a thigh injury instead of flying to South Africa with the Lions last Sunday, and he is making excellent progress.
Davies said: “I look forward to Lee joining us because it was one of the most difficult things I have had to do when he got the news it would be best he went home for treatment.
“There is no deadline on this, we won’t put pressure on the lad.”
Davies reported “a few bumps and bruises” from training today, but the Lions anticipate no fitness issues ahead of Saturday’s tour opener against a Royal Fifteen in Rustenburg on Saturday.