20 Years On: The Day That Unified a Nation

It is exactly 20 years to the day since the most iconic day in rugby, when the Springboks won the World Cup in front of Nelson Mandela and in the process went a long way to unifying a nation. Two of the SuperBru brain trust were mere young whippersnappers back then, kicking their heels in Cape Town at the time – here, they write about their memories of that famous day.

mandela pienaar

The General

I was in my first year of a BBusSci degree at UCT. I lived in Claremont with three cousins in a houseshare. I don’t remember what I did in the morning, but I do recall a nervous buzz in the air in Cape Town. We had a few people over and watched the game on our little TV. Needless to say, it was nail-biting stuff and the feeling when SA won was a whole new emotion, especially given the isolation the country had endured for much of recent memory.

I remember car hooters blaring and excited shouting coming from nearby houses. After the game I wanted to find out what my uni mates at Smuts Hall (a residence on the campus) were going to get up to, so I tried calling, but they’d gone out. No cellphones in those days, so that was it: no way of getting hold of them. Instead my cousins and I went to another cousin’s house nearby where an increasingly raucous party ensued, complete with a beer-fuelled and rather sweaty scrum in the dining room.


I was 19 when Nelson, Francois, Joel and the rest of the boys won the World Cup for us in 1995. South Africa was just coming down from the mixture of euphoria brought on by our first free and fair election and settling into a bit of uncertainty about what the future promised for our not quite yet rainbow nation.

I was in Cape Town and the game was played in Johannesburg so we had to make do with TV coverage but a large group of us watched at a friend’s house near the city so that we could go out in town afterwards.

We went out in town after the game and it was the first time I’d ever experienced our rainbow nation properly in action. The streets were full of people from all walks of life, different cultures, races, languages all celebrating together, full of pride and hope for OUR country.

Amazing :-)

Video credit: rugbyworldcup

What are your memories of the day? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Comments are closed.