OR Tambo International Airport looks more like a sports stadium on Tuesday evening, as the heroes of Yokohoma return home for the first time since winning the Rugby World Cup. The first few Springboks players have begun to arrive in Johannesburg, including Faf de Klerk and Elton Janjties.
However, there’s something of a mystery to their travel arrangements: The players are not all travelling together, and two separate flights have been chartered home from Japan.
Why did the Springboks travel on two separate flights?
The issue was pulled into sharper focus earlier in the day, when it was announced the plane carrying coach Rassie Erasmus, Captain Siya Kolisi and the Webb-Ellis Trophy was delayed by two-and-a-half hours, throwing the world champions’ travel plans into chaos. The senior leadership team were meant to arrive earlier in Johannesburg, but will now only touch down after 19:00.
As per usual, the Twitter sleuths have been doing their thing. Speculation is rife over why the players are on separate flights. Some have suggested that it’s down to “damage limitation” if – God forbid – one plane crashes, preserving a core number of players on the extreme off-chance of disaster speaking.
Twitter detectives come up short
Much less morbid, and way more tongue-in-cheek, was the suggestion that Faf de Klerk needed a later flight because he’d been partying non-stop since the weekend. Which, to be honest, isn’t that unbelievable.
My friend says he thinks the reason why the Springboks flew separately and flights got delayed was probably b/c the players were getting wasted last night in different cities and this morning Rassie was like "Oh shit, we gotta go look for Faf in that city"
— thina. (@ScottMakasi) November 5, 2019
“Logistics” the most likely answer
However, the real reason is most likely grounded in the mundane. Had all gone to plan on Tuesday, Siya, Rassie and Handre Pollard would have been amongst the first few names to land. They’d have then been in position for their press conference, as the others filtered through. The delay has sadly flipped those plans on their head, with the Boks at the top table only likely to address the media after 20:00.
Furthermore, you have to consider the logistics of the matter. There are no direct flights from Japan to South Africa. Booking flights for dozens of squad members and technical staff is a nightmare at the best of times. To get them all on the same plane, and the same connection, and the same schedule is a miracle even Rassie and the boys would find difficult to pull off.
Despite our attempts to contact officials, no established reason has been given for the travel chaos. We know there was a technical fault on the flight carrying the leadership team on the Sydney – Johannesburg leg of their journey, but nothing more has been divulged. That’s because, ladies and gentlemen, it really ain’t that deep.