5 October 2015
Nelson Mandela has been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame for using rugby as an agent for social change in 1995 to help unite a nation.
The ceremony took place at St James’ Park in Newcastle on Saturday, 3 October, before South Africa went up against Scotland in a Pool B match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset presented the Hall of Fame cap to South African Sport and Recreation Deputy Minister Gert Oosthuizen and Francois Pienaar, who captained the Springboks in 1995, when they won the world championships on home ground.
“The World Rugby Hall of Fame recognises those who have made an indelible mark on our sport through feats on the field of play, displays of great character or through their tireless and inspirational work in driving forward our great game,” said Lapasset. “Mandela certainly fits in that category. He was instrumental in turning Rugby World Cup 1995 into a momentous occasion that united the South African nation through the power of sport.
“By supporting the Springboks so passionately and publicly on their way to victory, Mandela helped to change attitudes, soften hearts and convince minds of the right course of history for his country to take and, in the process, became a wonderful example to us all.”
He said it was a fitting tribute to a man who did so much for his country and the sport.
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“We accept this honour in the true spirit of human solidarity and building a new world order through sport,” said Oosthuizen. “May the Springboks see this as a motivation to win the World Cup. The Madiba magic still lives on.”
His words were echoed by Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula: “World Rugby informed us of their intentions and plans to honour our global icon, a legend and father of our nation Nelson Mandela by inducting him on the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
“It’s not by coincidence but by consistence that World Rugby decided to honour Nelson Mandela in Scotland which, its biggest city Glasgow, was the first to offer him its Freedom of the City.”
Back in 1995
As Mandela handed Pienaar the Webb Ellis Cup in 1995, he said: “Francois, thank you for what you have done for our country.”
To which Pienaar replied: “No, Mr President; thank you for what you have done for our country.”
Morne du Plessis, legendary South African rugby player and manager of Pienaar’s victorious squad, recalled that 1995 “was the start of the theme that sport has the power to change the world”.
“If you think back on it, it changed our country. It had a lasting effect on how people could use sport to value each other and to come to understand each other a little bit better.
“(It’s) now a legend, it’s become a film, it’s spoken around the world as one of the true miracle stories in sport and in the country. The fact that rugby can be such a powerful initiator of social change.”
After beating Scotland 34-16 on Saturday, the Boks tackle the US in their next Rugby World Cup match on Wednesday, 7 October.