As Rugby World Cup 2015 heats up, former South African President Nelson Mandela has been posthumously inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
A special ceremony was held at St. James’ Park in Newcastle on Saturday, just before the Springboks’ game, and slam-dunk win, against Scotland in the Rugby World Cup 2015.
The honor given to Nelson Mandela relates to his support of the South African Springbok team during Rugby World Cup 1995, five years after his release from prison, when he united the South African nation via the power of sport.
According to DW, the coveted Hall of Fame cap was presented by World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset to the South African Hon. Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation, Gert C. Oosthuizen, along with Francois Pienaar, who was captain of the South African team that won the Rugby World Cup on home soil back in 1995.
Lapasset explained that the World Rugby Hall of Fame recognizes those persons 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.”
While Mandela didn’t play rugby, Lapasset said he certainly fit the category, as he was instrumental in turning Rugby World Cup 1995 into “a momentous occasion that united the South African nation through the power of sport.”
He said that by supporting the South African Springboks team — playing a predominantly white game — so passionately and publicly while they were on their way to victory, Nelson Mandela helped to change attitudes in South Africa and to “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.”
As reported by Eyewitness News, Lapasset said that now, 20 years after that historic tournament, World Rugby is delighted to induct the former South African president into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
“It is a fitting tribute to a man who did so much for his country and our sport.”
Oregan Hoskins, South African Rugby Union President and World Rugby Vice-chairman, spoke of Mandela, saying he was a man of integrity who shared his vision with the rest of the world. He said he was a “great man of vision, determination and integrity who performed a miracle that amazed the world as much as it amazed his fellow countrymen.”
Hoskins continued by saying that Nelson Mandela’s name will rank among the great humanitarians and that the induction “reflects rugby’s ever-lasting friendship and appreciation for a great man.”
In the video below, Francois Pienaar speaks of the winning game in 1995 and how Mandela wished the team all good luck before the game. Pienaar said he was especially moved that Mandela was wearing a Springbok shirt with his number emblazoned on the back. The late Nelson Mandela also speaks in the video of how exciting the whole experience was.
The image at the top of this article shows Mandela wearing a Springbok rugby shirt when visited in his home by the team after they once again won the Rugby World Cup in 2007.
So far, in Rugby World Cup 2015, South Africa first lost to Japan by 32-34, followed by a win against Samoa of 46-6 on the following Saturday, and yet another 34-16 win against Scotland this Saturday. No doubt if Nelson Mandela was still alive, he would be cheering the team on yet again, hoping for another win in the finals of the Rugby World Cup 2015.
Many will remember the 2009 film Invictus, in which Morgan Freeman played the role of South African President Nelson Mandela, and Hollywood actor Matt Damon starred as the team’s captain, Francois Pienaar, including the famous win in Rugby World Cup 1995.
As reported on the Inquisitr recently, possibly Freeman played the part too well, as some students giving a presentation about South African President Nelson Mandela displayed a photo of Morgan Freeman instead.
[Photo: Nelson Mandela in 2007 by Gallo Images / Getty Images Sport]