Time.com has a great photo essay on the history of the Rugby World Cup (click this link to enjoy!). I thought I’d post it so that my American family and friends can join most of the Southern hemisphere and other assorted former British colonies in what will primarily distract 50 million rabid South African fans for the next 6 weeks, beginning tonight! The Springboks will be attempting to defend their 2007 Rugby World Cup crown in enemy territory, as the powerful All-Blacks of New Zealand will look for redemption and signs of hope out of their devastating earthquake earlier this year. With the American football season kicking off, I thought it only appropriate to make the world aware that another rabid sport will reach its apex in the next 6 weeks. Here’s a quote and pic from a powerful moment of national healing and reconciliation that happened when South African president Nelson Mandela presented the winning trophy to the Boks after they had won the 1995 tournament on their home soil. This act of graciousness with Mandela becoming head cheerleader for a largely white, Afrikaaner sport sent shock waves through South Africa, and resulted in the filming of the 2009 movie Invictus.
As well as the sport (such as the emergence of Jonah Lomu), the 1995 World Cup will always be remembered for South Africa being welcomed back into the fold. Because as well as being the first tournament to be held in one country, it was also the first to feature the Springboks following the end of their international sports boycott due to apartheid. And if anything, South Africa’s eventual triumph over New Zealand in the final was secondary to the symbolism of President Nelson Mandela wearing the green and gold Springbok jersey so readily associated with the white man. No wonder Hollywood made a movie about it, with Clint Eastwood’s Invictus starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman.
America isn’t exactly known for its love of rugby. But the Eagles have played in the past three World Cups and will be looking to star player Takudzwa Ngwenya in New Zealand. At the last tournament in France, he mesmerized the rugby world by having the audacity to take on and beat South Africa’s Bryan Habana in the course of scoring a terrific try. It’s probably for the best to skirt over the final score: 64-15 in favor of the Springboks.