The final of the ninth Rugby World Cup will take place on Saturday 2nd November 2019.

During apartheid, UK rugby teams rarely boycotted matches against South Africa and, as a result, faced domestic and international condemnation.

Dan Feather, Lecturer in Humanities at Liverpool John Moores University, argues convincingly that Nelson Mandela recognised how sport, and in particular rugby, could play an important role in the post-apartheid reconciliation process. He believed success in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, held in South Africa, was vital in helping to bring the country together. The image of Mandela, proudly wearing a Springboks jersey and cap – in front of a largely white crowd – as he handed the trophy to white captain Francois Pienaar went on to become iconic. Pienaar later recalled: “When the final whistle blew, this country changed forever.”

Nelson Mandela & Francois Pienaar at the Rugby World Cup 1995

When the captain of South Africa, Siya Kolisi, leads his men onto the pitch at the Yokohama Stadium tomorrow, he will be the team’s first-ever black captain; his side is also the most multicultural team in its history. Jane Flanagan, writing in The Times, refers to the 2019 Springbok side as a “microcosm of the widely diverse country they represent, both socially and economically”.

“You can’t play to be the best black player or to be the best white player to appeal to a community; you have to play to be the best for every South African. ”

Siya Kolisi