The iconic moment Nelson Mandela handed the Webb Ellis cup to Francois Pienaar, uniting South Africa in celebration

The iconic moment Nelson Mandela handed the Webb Ellis cup to Francois Pienaar, delighting all of South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA is mourning and the world is feeling the loss of Madiba, Nelson Mandela.

A lot of things will be said about the great man over the next few weeks, but one thing is unavoidable – particularly with regards to the iconic image above – he truly harnessed the positive power of rugby.

We delved back into our archives to see what was written about Mandela in Rugby World in 1995, following South Africa’s World Cup. The August edition had just one cover line: “South Africa’s greatest triumph.”

Inside, with editor Peter Bills’ letter, he wrote: “Writing this, in a Cape Town room overlooking the bay and Robben Island, offers one a proper perspective on Rugby World Cup 1995.

“Nelson Mandela put behind him all the emotional baggage of the white racists’ game to endorse rugby with open arms. For a man who suffered what he endured, notably on Robben Island, to have personally embraced the white South African players and have donned a Springbok cap at an ANC youth rally, asking everyone to support the team ‘because they are our kind’, confirmed the man’s credentials for sainthood.”

And to that abiding memory of Mandela handing Francois Pienaar the Webb Ellis trophy, Rugby World’s David Lawrenson was there, taking it all in.

“The delightful image of Nelson Mandela dancing with happiness as South Africa fulfilled its long, long dream of World Cup triumph will in the memory forever,” Lawrenson wrote. “It was one of hundreds of deeply emotional scenes, as the South African nation united in celebration. Tears of passion and delight were everywhere.”

Mandela achieved so much and battled through unimaginable troubles, but for rugby fans, this moment will be what does live forever in the memory.