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18 years ago, Mandela wore a Springbok jersey to present the Rugby World Cup

“We didn’t have 60,000 South Africans, we had 43 million South Africans” – Francois Pienaar.

This article was first published on 24 June 2013, on the 18th anniversary of the game. It is reproduced here as the world remembers Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

(YouTube: jaiarc)

AS A GAME of rugby, it was dramatic enough in its own right.

It was the All-Blacks. It was the Springboks. Extra time was required. There was a tournament-clinching drop goal.

Add to that the importance that anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela had placed on South Africa hosting the Rugby World Cup and it became one of the most poignant and iconic crossover moments in sport and politics.

A Sprinbok jersey-wearing President handing the the William Webb Ellis Trophy to winning captain Francois Pienaar created a historic and unprecedented moment in South Africa’s race struggle.

In previous years, the Spingbok had been a symbol of white, apartheid rule. There had been blacks-only pens at stadiums – but those who attended always cheered on the Springboks’ opponents. Always, no exceptions. Until Madiba said different.

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A special moment then when Pienaar said of the country’s support of the team in a post-match interview: “We didn’t have 60,000 South Africans, we had 43 million South Africans.”

Today, the rainbow nation remembers a man with who turned his vision – that “the Boks belonged to all of us” – into a sustainable and lasting reality.

First published 24 June 2013

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