South Africa’s rugby sevens team will wear a special jersey at this weekend’s tournament in Cape Town to pay tribute to former President Nelson Mandela, who would have turned 100 this year.
Captains from each country visited Robben Island ahead of the Sevens World Series tournament, the site where Mandela served 18 of his 27 years in prison.
“It’s a great honor and privilege to wear this jersey and just to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, the father figure of this country,” said Blitzboks captain Phil Snyman.
“We can go out as a team and show the nation that we’re still fighting for what’s right and still fighting for a better South Africa. Hopefully we can go out and touch people’s lives every single day.
“It’s a massive opportunity to play your home tournament in a jersey like that. It’s not going to happen soon again.”
Mandela, who passed away in 2013, served as South African President for five years between 1994 and 1999 having helped bring an end to the apartheid regime.
The photo of Mandela, the country’s first black president, awarding Springboks captain Francois Pienaar the Rugby World Cup in 1995 is one of sport’s most iconic images.
The Blitzboks, last year’s Sevens World Series champions, finished sixth at last weekend’s season-opening tournament in Dubai.
They have won four tournaments on home soil and once in Cape Town in 2015.
“We are really looking forward to this weekend. You only get one opportunity to play in front of your home crowd, 50,000 people supporting you and then 50 million people at home,” said Snyman.
“I think we will really inspire them by the fact that we will play in a limited edition jersey, a one-off jersey, as a tribute to the late Madiba.
“We are really happy to play in Cape Town this weekend and I think, especially coming off a not so good Dubai tournament, the guys will be ready and fired up and we believe we will be successful this weekend.”