Nelson Mandela, who harnessed rugby as a vehicle for social change in 1995 to unite a nation, has been posthumously inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame at a special ceremony during Rugby World Cup 2015.
The ceremony took place at St James’ Park in Newcastle on Saturday, prior to South Africa’s much-anticipated Pool B match against Scotland with World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset presenting the coveted Hall of Fame cap to the Hon Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation SA, Gert C Oosthuizen MP and Francois Pienaar, captain of the South Africa team that won Rugby World Cup 1995 on home soil.
Lapasset said: “The World Rugby Hall of Fame recognises those who have made an indelible mark on our sport through feats on the field of play, displays of great character or through their tireless and inspirational work in driving forward our great game.
“Mandela certainly fits in that category. He was instrumental in turning Rugby World Cup 1995 into a momentous occasion that united the South African nation through the power of sport.
“By supporting the Springboks so passionately and publicly on their way to victory, Mandela helped to change attitudes, soften hearts and convince minds of the right course of history for his country to take and, in the process, became a wonderful example to us all.
“Now, 20 years on from that historic tournament, we are delighted to induct the former president into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. It is a fitting tribute to a man who did so much for his country and our sport.”
South African Rugby Union President and World Rugby Vice-Chairman Oregan Hoskins said: “Madiba was a great man of vision, determination and integrity who performed a miracle that amazed the world as much as it amazed his fellow countrymen.
“His name will rank among the greatest humanitarians and this induction reflects rugby’s ever-lasting friendship and appreciation for a great man.”