Cape Town - The power of sport to unite was brightly and boldly in evidence once again with bumper crowds celebrating in joyous harmony at the fourth edition of the Cape Town Sevens over the past weekend.
Mark Alexander, president of the South African Rugby Union, thanked all stakeholders for their part in producing another explosion of colour and fun at the Cape Town Stadium.
"The players and the fans are the key participants at the Cape Town Sevens and I'd like to thank them for the contribution they make on the field or in the stands to another memorable and highly enjoyable event," he said.
"People from different cultural, social, economic and political backgrounds come together in harmony at the Cape Town Sevens to enjoy brilliant Sevens, promoting social cohesion in a most tangible and real way.
"The Mother City rugby audience and visitors from around South Africa and the world help create a unique atmosphere and occasion for two days every December. Our commercial partners add their muscle and enthusiasm to the event to allow us to put on the high-octane show around the rugby that sets this event apart, we believe.
"This year was doubly special as we celebrated the centenary of President Nelson Mandela's birth and once again his insight that sport has the power to unite people - particularly in our country - was proved to be so resonant.
The total attendance over the two days was 107,905 spectators (51,449 on Saturday and 56,456 on Sunday) creating a carnival atmosphere augmented by nail-biting rugby and a presentation of the event which has earned this event the title of the Best Live Sporting Experience for the past two years in the SA Sports Industry Awards.
"We're very proud of what the HSBC Cape Town Sevens tournament has become and this weekend proved yet again that South Africans love their rugby and a good time," said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
"The stats show that just over a third of fans came from Cape Town, while close to half are from outside the Western Cape or abroad - which demonstrates the appeal for people to travel to the Mother City for this tournament.
"I would like to congratulate Fiji on winning the title, the Blitzboks on never giving up despite losing a number of key players to injury, but also the other 14 nations that thrilled us with their speed, skills and dedication out on the pitch."
Apart from red-hot action on the field, the crowd were treated to performances by some of South Africa's best artists, including Kurt Darren, Emo Adams and Tarryn Lamb, while the beer tents, food vendors and merchandising stalls were serving fans non-stop over the course of the two days.
The Springbok Sevens team played in a Madiba-inspired jersey - proposed by team sponsor Castle Free and developed and produced by apparel sponsor ASICS - while one of the highlights of the day was the reveal of a giant portrait of Nelson Mandela, created on placards held aloft by dancers on the field.
The 16 team captains also paid homage to Madiba's memory by visiting Robben Island during the week.
"We are already looking forward to the 2019 edition of the Cape Town Sevens," said Alexander. "We plan to come back better than ever and once again demonstrate the power of rugby to unite."