Madiba backs Boks to win

Nelson Mandela urged the Springboks on Thursday to emulate their 1995 World Cup victory when his appearance in a gold and green jersey became one of the iconic images of the post-apartheid era.

The ageing former South African president, who will not be travelling to France for Saturday’s final against defending champions England, said in a pre-recorded video message to the team he was convinced that they would return home triumphant.

“I do not doubt for a moment that the Springboks can win back the trophy,” Mandela (89) said in comments carried by the South African Press Association.

“We know that our boys have the ability, strength and determination to be victorious once more, because we are a winning nation.”

While the government renewed its warnings on Thursday that the white-dominated Springboks would have to become more racially representative, Mandela said the huge public support for the team could act as force for unity.

“We are powerfully reminded of that historic day in 1995,” he said.

“We not only won the Rugby World Cup, but more importantly we were one nation united behind our victorious team.”

Mandela presented the 1995 trophy to South Africa captain Francois Pienaar at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park while dressed in a Springbok jersey, a move seen as a gesture of reconciliation towards the minority white population a year on from the end of apartheid.

Last month, South Africa beat England 36-0 at the Stade de France, the venue for Saturday’s final, in what was the title-holders’ record World Cup loss.—AFP

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