The Springbok rugby squad’s Qantas flight to Sydney, for the opening match of the Tri-Nations rugby championships, turned back to Johannesburg shortly into the trip and made an emergency landing due to engine failure.
"The Qantas flight on which the team was travelling was forced to return to O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg less than two hours after take-off," the SA Rugby Union said in a statement, according to the South African Press Association.
The third engine on the Qantas Boeing 747 had overheated and “exploded in a ball of flames” with a “big bang,” according to early reports from SAPA, but the plane was able to land safely in Johannesburg, where the team will remain overnight.
"Wow, just had to do an emergency landing at O.R. Tambo," Springboks captain John Smit posted on Twitter.
"We lost an engine after takeoff but safely landed now! My second safe emergency landing!"
In November, Qantas grounded its entire fleet of Airbus A380 jets after an engine on one of the superjumbo planes disintegrated mid air, and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore.
The Australian flagship carrier last month reached a $100-million settlement with Rolls-Royce, the engine maker, over the explosion.
The Springboks play Australia in their opening match of the Tri-Nations championships in Sydney next weekend, before traveling to Wellington to play New Zealand.