As I started this series I’ve decided to end with an appropriate story to conclude with.
It’s 1990 and just days since the release of Nelson Mandela. The world’s cameras are trained on South Africa and the changes that have begun to unfold. Edwin Bennett, sportsman and administrator, remembers:
His [Nelson Mandela] next big appearance was in the Eastern Cape. There was no hall or stadium big enough. He met people in an open field and after the celebration there were three rugby unions—one Coloured and the other two were the African black rugby unions. He just came in there and said, ‘From today on, you are one and that’s it’. And they had to get together the next day and form this one union. Later on they formed links with the white rugby union in the area.
And it happened, the same day, Bill Jardine called and said, Eddy, the old man is calling, I need to be there, and I took Bill to Nelson Mandela’s office. Nelson Mandela was there, and seated next to him was Bill Jardine and Steve Tshwete. Danie Craven and Ebrahim Patel came in- they were the two force now- SARU (South African Rugby Union) and the old SARB (South African Rugby Board).
And Nelson Mandela said, ‘What problem do you have? You don’t have a problem. From now on, I want one rugby union. Please go out and make the rugby union.’ And that was final. (Gilpin, 1999)
We all know what happened next. No South African can forget the images beamed around the world on the June 24 1995, when South Africa won the Rugby World Cup. Just look at where we had come from when President Nelson Mandela handed Francois Pienaar the trophy.
When reviewing this series I see that many negative outside factors have moulded sport in South Africa. Sport in its natural form is simple, so if we follow that rule across the world we can continue to grow the great history of sport in South Africa.
I leave you with this quote from former minister of sport Ngconde Balfour about the future of South African sport.
“ If we dream alone it is only a dream; but when we dream together it becomes a reality.” – Ngconde Balfour
Contents of the History of South African Sport series: