100 World Class South Africans: Francois Pienaar

2013-08-29 12:00

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Captain inspiration

Matt Damon played him in a Clint Eastwood movie (2009’s Invictus) and Nelson Mandela is godfather to both his sons.

He’s the guy who was pivotal in turning SA rugby professional.

François Pienaar only represented South Africa in 29 matches (all of them as captain), but he’s arguably the most famous Springbok ever.

That’s him holding the Webb Ellis Trophy (the ultimate prize in rugby) with the world’s most iconic hero (Mandela), who is also wearing his No.6 rugby shirt – one of the greatest photographs in sporting history.

He’s also the only South African in both the International Rugby Hall of Fame and IRB Hall of Fame.

His great words after leading his team to an underdog victory in the 1995 World Cup – ‘We didn’t have the support of 63 000 South Africans [in the stadium] today, we had the support of 42 million South Africans’ – were key in uniting our new democracy and instilling pride and determination to create a great nation.

After the World Cup, Pienaar had a short stint as player-coach-CEO of London club Saracens,but returned home in 2002.

The following year he founded MAD (Make A Difference), which supports academically talented youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He also co-founded the FNB Varsity Rugby Cup, and more recently ASEM Varsity Sports, to support the next generation of heroes.

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