Nelson Mandela: Former South African President's Life In Sport (PICTURES)

05/12/2013 23:24 GMT | Updated 06/12/2013 09:48 GMT
le capitaine de l'équipe de rugby d'Afrique du Sud, François Pienaar (D) est félicité par le Président de la République Sud-africaine, Nelson Mandela (G), après la victoire de son équipe en finale de la Coupe du Monde de Rugby face à la Nouvelle-Zélande le 24 juin 1995 à Johannesburg.South African rugby team captain, Francois Pienaar (R), is congratulated by South African President Nelson Mandela (L) after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand 24 June 1995 in Johannesburg. (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images)

A boxer in his youth, Nelson Mandela's pugnacity in South Africa led to the country hosting the rugby World Cup in 1995, when he encouraged black South Africans to support the previously hated Springboks national side.

Following the final victory over New Zealand, Mandela presented the trophy to Afrikaner captain François Pienaar, wearing a replica shirt with Pienaar's number 6 on the back. It was a gesture which fortified South Africa's reconciliation.

nelson mandela sport

Two leaders: Mandela meets a 21-year-old Roy Keane in 1993

Mandela and sportsmen

In 2010, his country became the first African nation to stage the football World Cup. That honour, and the privilege 15 years earlier, would not have been possible without him.

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair," he once eloquently said.