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‘It’s amazing what sport can do’: Muller looks back on Mandela’s World Cup

The Ulster captain looks back on the moment Pienaar and Mandela met on the field.

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

THERE ARE SEMINAL moments in everybody’s life. Events that leave a lasting imprint.

The places you heard the news become landmarks, the news itself can colour your whole outlook on life.

As Johann Muller bowed his head during the silence which honoured the death of Nelson Mandela before Ulster’s 48 – 0 Heineken Cup win over Treviso, the rest of Ravenhill could only imagine what was going through his head.

“Credit to the crowd, it was a special moment,” said the Ulster captain afterwards.

“It’s obviously big, not just for South Africans but for everybody all over the world. It’s a sad weekend, sad news and I think the respect everybody showed out there tonight in a different country means a lot to us.”

Muller is not one to speak at length about emotions. Sitting in the school hall in the shadow of Ravenhill, his voice lowered and he gulped a little as he looked back fondly to that June day in 1995 when Francois PIenaar and Mandela greeted one another to celebrate victory in the Rugby World Cup.

“I think every South African, all 40 or 50 million of us watched that game,” adds Muller who was viewing as a 14-year-old on a schoolboy rugby trip to Port Elizabeth.

“The celebrations that happened all over the country after the victory: At home, sport united our country in ’95 and again in 2007 through rugby. I think it was something really special and obviously something that we as rugby players treasure. They were great moments and it’s amazing what sport can do for any country.

“It was a special moment in my life.”

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Sean Farrell

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