Forty-three South Africa rugby captains, past and present, met on Wednesday in a historic gathering that brought together legends of the game across race and gender.
From 1995 World Cup skipper Francois Pienaar to current women’s captain Mandisa Williams, the players marked the countdown to the launch of a new Springbok museum in September.
The museum will trace the game from the 1860s in the rugby-obsessed nation, where the sport was separated during apartheid along race lines and only united in 1992.
“I think it’s a wonderful start to tell the story about South African rugby, the good and the bad stories,” Pienaar said.
The former captain famously accepted the World Cup trophy from then-South African president Nelson Mandela in 1995 on home soil in a symbol of the fledgling all-race democracy after years of division.
“We’ve gone through that healing phase,” Pienaar said. “We’ve started the healing of being apart for so long, so it’s a wonderful start to building an even stronger Springbok brand.”
The Springbok Experience museum will look at the role of black rugby during apartheid and among the group were players who were affected by the divisions.
Randy Marinus, who played in the infamous 1976 New Zealand tour and later skippered a non-white federation team, said it was “marvelous.”
“In those days, whites were playing one side and the coloreds [“mixed race” people] were playing that other side,” he said. “For me today, it’s an honor standing with those guys that I’ve been reading about and hearing about.”
Each player, representing Test captains from 1960 to 2012, had their handprints captured in moulds which will be cast in bronze to go on display in the museum.
The first to go up, in front of an enthusiastic crowd, was Des van Jaarsveldt, who turns 84 at the weekend, and the last was current Springbok captain Jean de Villiers.
Also in the group were well-known Springbok names like Naas Botha, Tiaan Strauss, Joost van der Westhuizen and Bob Skinstad.
Huge cheers greeted the arrival of Van der Westhuizen, capped 89 times for the Springboks, who has motor neuron disease and was assisted by Pienaar to his seat.