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We can conquer world, Prez tells South African Football team

President Jacob Zuma wished the South Africa squad good luck today, 48 hours before they face Mexico in the opening match of the World Cup.

sports Updated: Jun 09, 2010 22:35 IST

President Jacob Zuma wished the South Africa squad good luck today, 48 hours before they face Mexico in the opening match of the World Cup.

The country's World Cup-winning rugby union side also rallied behind the nation's football team, with the fabled Springboks admitting they are happy to take a backseat as the soccer showpiece gets underway.

Football-loving Zuma met the South Africa players at their Sturrock Park training base near the Johannesburg central business district after the team went on an open-top bus tour through the streets of the Sandton business hub.

He was introduced to each player by captain Aaron Mokoena before telling them he believes they are ready to take on the world.

"I've been saying Bafana Bafana (isiZulu for The Boys) would surprise people and I think we are ready. We are ready to go to war and conquer," said Zuma.

"I've come here to meet you on behalf of the country and to say to you - good luck, we are behind you. No South African has any doubts and we will support you to the end."

"We are ready for the world and ready to surprise them. Keep in mind that everybody is with you. They cannot all speak to you, but I can on their behalf."

Portsmouth star Mokoena, who last month became the first South African to reach the 100-cap milestone when Bafana defeated Guatemala, presented Zuma with a signed replica of his number four shirt.

Mokoena was told by the president that he hoped they would meet again on July 11 - the date of the final at Soccer City.

Zuma said: "As an optimist I am saying we will reach the final and my hands are itching to hold the cup and hand it over to him (Aaron)."

"Whatever happens, it cannot leave the continent. All you need to do is relax and play. Do not worry about pressure, just do what you know best."

Zuma said members of his family rushed at the chance to join him on his visit to a team considered outsiders in Group A, which is completed by former world champions France and Uruguay with the top-two finishers advancing.

"When my family heard I was coming here, they left everything and said we must come to give them our support. I'm very happy to have had this opportunity to wish you good luck.

"The country has not just prepared the facilities - we have prepared ourselves psychologically. The psychology of the country is tip top."

The Springbok national rugby union took time off from preparing to face European champions France in Cape Town on Saturday to wish Bafana Bafana well in the four yearly international football showcase.

"We will show our support by attending the match against Uruguay in Pretoria next Wednesday and each squad member has a Bafana jersey they will wear on days the national team is playing," said coach Peter de Villiers.

Skipper and hooker John Smit added: "It is not often that a Springbok Test takes a back seat to something else, but this certainly is the case with the World Cup and we gladly accept that."

First Published: Jun 09, 2010 22:22 IST