Prior to the start of the 1995 World Cup finals against New Zealand, a predominantly white audience of 63,000 in Ellis Park sang as the Springboks led a new national anthem. It combined lyrics from “Die Stem” (the apartheid-era anthem, which had been the subject of earlier protests) and “Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrika”, an old pan-African liberation hymn from the anti-African movement. -apartheid. When Mandela appeared in the stadium dressed in Springbok green, the mostly Afrikaner crowd shouted, “Nelson, Nelson, Nelson!
The match showcased Mandela’s work in the weeks leading up to the matches, setting the stage for a historic – and largely symbolic – spectacle of national unity through races for the whole world. In the match, the two teams finished regulation time tied 9-9 in a fiery game against their rivals. With seven minutes remaining in extra time, the South African team won with a drop goal from Joel Stransky to secure a 15-12 victory.
“The whole of South Africa burst into joy, blacks as happy as whites,” Martin Meredith wrote in his biography,
Mandela. “Never before have blacks had reason to show such pride in the efforts of their white compatriots. It was a moment of national fusion that Mandela had done a lot to inspire. A moment of symbolic unity, with a complicated heritage
“When the final whistle blew, this country changed forever,” said team captain Pienaar years later on Mandela’s death. While this may have been a gross exaggeration for most black South Africans who continued to suffer at the lower end of society in the post-apartheid world, it reflected a skillful effort by Mandela to use rugby for heal the wounds of the nation.
For many black South Africans, the Springboks continue to represent a brutal apartheid regime. The team had only one black player in 1995 games and only had six in 2019 when they won the World Cup against England with their first black captain, Siya Kolisi. “Just as Mandela’s move in 1995 was hailed as a metaphor for racial reconciliation in the nation, rugby’s failure to transform is seen as a metaphor for disillusionment among blacks who have gained political freedom but not economic, “wrote journalist David Smith in a 2015
Yet Mandela’s efforts to use rugby to bring together a new nation struggling to heal old wounds became one of his landmark achievements as president of South Africa – and a sign of what could be done. for good thanks to the power of sport. In 2000, at the Laureus World Sports Awards, Mandela said: “Sport has the power to change the world. Sport can create hope where there was only despair.