South Africa's national rugby team is a metaphor for a nation's slow progress on racial equality

Nelson Mandela (L) and members of South Africa’s rugby team, after the team won the 1995 Rugby World Cup

Under Apartheid, white minority rule segregated all aspects of life in South Africa. There were separate education system for blacks and whites, separate public amenities, and even separate sporting codes.

After the formal end of Apartheid in 1994, Nelson Mandela, the country’s first democratically elected president, set himself a near-impossible task: turning rugby—once considered a “whites-only” sport—from a symbol of prejudice and oppression into a symbol of national unity. For him, the 1995 Rugby World Cup—the first international tournament that South Africa participated in after years of international sanctions—was the perfect showcase for this.

The Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team, won the tournament that year, offering a brief moment of euphoric unity for a country which would still have to deal with the legacy of Apartheid in coming years.

Read more: South Africa’s national rugby team is a metaphor for a nation’s slow progress on racial equality – Quartz

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