02/25/2021 at 09:28

How Nelson Mandela United South Africa with Rugby

Our website deals with news and stories about rugby. We scour news sites, reviews, and promos like the Betfair promo code 2021 to get you the newest and most accurate information we can. However, today, we have decided to do something a bit unconventional. When talking about sports history, it is usual and proper to discuss the unlikely heroes the athletes are or become. This is not such a story. This is a story about Nelson Mandela and how he used one of the most popular sports to unite a nation.

The Prelude

Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and the first black leader of South Africa. He joined the African National Congress in 1944.

The idea behind the organization was to throw away the national apartheid practices. As this did not sit well with the regime of the time, the conflicts escalated between the ANC and the National Party. As a result, Mandela was arrested and tried for treason twice. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on Robben’s Island.

The National Party believed that to be the end of the matter. Furthermore, they did their best to isolate Mandela. He spent 27 years in prison before becoming released in 1990, due to global pressure. Four years later, he became the first black president of South Africa. While this shifted the balance in his favor, he still had to deal with a divided nation.


Several sports had a large part of Nelson Mandela’s life. He had been an amateur boxer prior to his political imprisonment. In fact, even after he took office, he would do an occasional workout that allowed him to recharge and take on the challenges the following day would bring. While in prison, along with a few inmates, he started the Makana Football Association. Due to his isolation, he was not allowed to participate in the games. However, the prisoners benefited from the league.

Political Shift

Mandela was ready to forgive and move forward. His followers were inclined to disagree. Many white people fled South Africa in fear of retaliation. There was some merit to that, as there were several radical groups that were ready to overthrow Mandela’s regime in order to repay the kindness of the ruling class in full. This was when Nelson Mandela turned to sports to unite the nation.

This isn’t to say that sports were the fulcrum on which his political career rested. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They were actually a teensy part of it. We are merely pointing out that rugby was one of the tools the political icon used to unite a broken country.

Up until that point, Rugby was seen as a sport played by white supremacists in South Africa. Nelson Mandela embraced the national rugby team during the 1996 World Cup, prompting his followers and the rest of South Africa to do the same. In a surprising twist, despite the protests from some of his colleagues, South Africa accepted the Springboks. The country started to heal.