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Springboks, Mandela see off 46664 torch vehicle
The Springbok rugby team joined former president Nelson Mandela to see off the 46664 vehicle.

The Springbok rugby team joined former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg on Friday to see off the 46664 vehicle carrying the national relay torch to be lit on Robben Island.

John Samuel, head of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said: "This is the start of an exciting journey. The celebrations have started for Madiba's birthday."

The torch will be taken to Robben Island and lit in Mandela's prison cell at one minute past midnight on July 18, Mandela's 87th birthday.

Samuel said the torch will take the message of the 46664 HIV-awareness campaign across the country and serves as a reminder of the need to do much more to protect children and women.

The torch will be transported in a black 4x4 branded with the 46664 logo and with "Mandela's challenge" printed on the sides of the vehicle.

The torch and the convoy will travel throughout the country collecting Madiba birthday messages and will arrive at Ellis Park Stadium shortly before the kick-off of the Mandela Cup rugby match on July 23.

Springbok coach Jake White said Mandela was always actively involved in rugby and the team's participation in the 46664 campaign is an honour.

"Carrying the torch is symbolic to the team. We are here to see the torch off and we will be seeing the torch again when we play Australia. This means a lot to us."

Flanker Schalk Burger said he is honoured to be part of the campaign of which the Springboks are just a small part and Mandela is the big, important part.

Samuel said the branded vehicles and the publicity of the 46664 campaign are an effort to remind the public of the challenges South Africa faced in fighting HIV/Aids.

He said while the message of leading safe lives is being spread, boxes will be placed in 144 Vodacom stores nationwide for members of the public to submit a Madiba birthday message.

"We are hoping to collect more than a million messages by July 23 and we request people to monitor the progress of the vehicle," he said.

He added that carrying the relay to the Mandela Cup rugby match will demonstrate the significant role that sport can play in the ongoing challenges of nation building. -- Sapa