Members of the Lions squad lent a hand to their Principal Partner HSBC as they opened a brand new sports pitch inthe heart of the Orange Farm township in Johannesburg.
The pitch has been built at Masibambane College which is a school supported by Education Africa – a South African charity which has a long-standing relationship with HSBC.
The multi-purpose pitch was officially opened by Lions tour manager Gerald Davies and Giles Morgan from HSBC. The pitch includes some turf from Ellis Park (now Coca Cola Park) -the venue of the Lions’ final Test match against South Africa on July 4.
Students from the school then initiated the pitch with a special TAG rugby match involving the Lions players, who then planted trees around the outside of the pitch.
Speaking at the event Gerald Davies said, "Today is a special day and on behalf of the Lions players and management we are delighted to be able to attend and help with this fantastic legacy project. Education Africa is a fantastic charity and are making a real difference to the community of Orange Farm, and HSBC’s new sports pitch will bring pleasure to the whole community for years to come.
"Spending time in the community is an integral part of any Lions tour, and the players have really enjoyed
spending time with the children here."
Brian O’Driscoll, who is on his third Lions tour, said, "Today has been great and a really humbling experience. This is the first time I have really been to a township and the response of the kids here at Masibambane has been phenomenal.
"There is so much enthusiasm for rugby, and the children have really enjoyed playing TAG with some of the boys. I have no doubt that this new facility will be very popular with the whole community.
"I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the HSBC Rugby Festivals back in the UK & Ireland and spending time with the next generation of Lions players has been very rewarding. Perhaps today we have found one or two of the next generation of Springboks!"
Giles Morgan, Group head of sponsorship for HSBC Holdings, explained the partnership with Education Africa: "HSBC has a relationship with Education Africa through the chief executive of the bank who is involved with the charity.
"As Principal Partner of this Lions tour we wanted to ensure that there was a genuine legacy left behind once the tour was over. Today’s pitch opening marks one of the most significant elements of HSBC’s Lions legacy.
"In addition to the pitch, we have set up a kit donation scheme which has led to over 100 boxes of rugby kit being collected by children across the UK & Ireland and sent to children over here in South Africa.
"Over the coming weeks of the tour there are more activities planned across the country, including a special Coach Education programme and more HSBC Rugby Festivals involving over 4,000 South African youngsters. It is an exciting time for rugby in South Africa and HSBC hopes to help enable more youngsters enjoy the sport in the future."
James Urdang from Education Africa added, "Masibambane is an important programme for Education Africa for the whole Orange Farm community through its many outreach programmes and plays a key part in educating children and adults.
"It has become a quality educational institution in a rapidly growing informal housing settlement in one of the biggest townships in Johannesburg. The college is not just for children but for the whole community and plays a key part in trying to educate adults from the community.
"We are grateful for HSBC’s investment in the new sports pitch which I know will be both popular and important in building even more links with the people of Orange Farm."
Krishna Patel, group general manager and CEO of HSBC Africa, said, "Today marks the start of a very exciting six weeks for everyone at HSBC.
"The staff here in Africa have been heavily involved in the Lions investment and have been directly involved with the TAG rugby programme that we have been running in townships like Orange Farm all around Johannesburg. It has been a privilege to be involved with what I am sure will be a long-lasting relationship between HSBC and Masibambane College."