Springboks

Anniversary of Madiba moment

Nelson Mandela (File)
Nelson Mandela (File)
Johannesburg - In a moment of glory 18 years ago to the day, former president Nelson Mandela walked onto the Ellis Park field for a green and gold victory in the Rugby World Cup final.

Wearing a replica of Springbok captain Francois Pienaar's number six jersey and a Springbok cap, he waved to the capacity crowd, shook hands with the players and offered them words of encouragement ahead of their do or die June 24, 1995, game against the All Blacks.

On Sunday, the presidency announced that Mandela's condition was critical. He was admitted to hospital on June 8 for treatment of a recurring lung infection.

VIDEO: Francois Pienaar on Mandela

The nation united in prayer on hearing the news, willing him to health in much the same way his presence had spurred the Springboks to a 15-12 victory in a game which united the nation for the first time at a major sporting event.

It was a pivotal moment in South Africa's rugby and sporting development, as people of all races joined in supporting the previously all-white rugby team.

After the final whistle, Mandela shook Pienaar's hand and presented him with the William Webb Ellis trophy, punching the air as Pienaar held it aloft. He celebrated the win alongside the team.

Less than a year later, on February 3, 1996, Mandela appeared in a replica of Bafana Bafana captain Neil Tovey's number nine jersey at FNB Stadium.

Inspired, the national soccer team went on to beat Tunisia 2-0 and claim the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations title.

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