1995: Nelson Mandela Reaches Out to the South African Rugby Team

The Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team, had long been viewed as a visible symbol of pride for white Afrikaner South Africans and of exclusion for blacks. Soon after becoming president of the nation, Nelson Mandela boldly embraced the team. In particular, Mandela capitalized on the moment the squad was heading into the 1995 World Cup by urging all citizens to rally behind the team and by emphasizing that they were one South Africa, not two.

When the Springboks won the championship, Mandela hand-delivered the trophy to the team’s white captain, François Pienaar. They looked at each other and shook hands, an overture that Mandela explained represented both forgiveness and hope for the future.

Teams began to be recognized as a force to bring people and communities together, beyond the fans. Invictus, a motion picture starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, tells this story.