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Francois Pienaar, possibly the most iconic Springbok captain of all time, is best known for leading his side to South Africa’s first Rugby World Cup victory.
The flanker would accumulate many auspicious honours for his leadership on and off the field throughout his career.
It all started in 1989 for the renowned captain, when he made his debut for the Golden Lions (called Transvaal at the time) in the Currie Cup. He spent 7 years playing for the Lions.
In 1993 Francois Pienaar helped the Lions win Super 10 (Super Rugby’s predecessor), the Currie Cup, and the Lion Cup. He and his team went on to retain the Currie Cup the following year.
His efforts on the pitch earned him international player of the year, as voted by Rugby World magazine.
The resourceful flanker made his international debut in 1993 as captain of the South African side, and remained captain until his final test match. To date, he is one of the most successful captains to don the green and gold.
Francois Pienaar’s acclaim to fame was his captaining the winning Springbok side in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The Springboks defeated Australia, France, and Samoa to face New Zealand in the final. South Africa was elated to win in extra time after Joel Stransky secured a drop goal to put the final score at 15 - 12.
The country had been through an incredible amount of turmoil following the Apartheid regime, and one of the more memorable moments came after the game.
Nelson Mandela, the first black South African president, presented Francois Pienaar with the trophy, while wearing the number 6 Springbok jersey.
During the post-match interview, the captain insisted the victory was not just for the 60 thousand fans in attendance, but for 43 million South Africans at home.The Springbok captain recalls the former president thanking him for what he had done for the country, to which the flanker insisted Nelson Mandela was the one to be thanked.
After the World Cup, he joined Saracens in Britain where he made 44 appearances before heading into a coaching role at the Watford club.
The zeitgeist after the 1995 Rugby World Cup victory was that of hope, inspiration, and unity.
Francois Pienaar will always be acknowledged as a contributor towards unifying South Africa as did his bit for the country and showed that together anything is possible.