Cape Town: Former President Nelson Mandela hoped history would repeat itself on Sunday as South Africa prepared to open its World Cup campaign against the West Indies.
Mandela told Proteas skipper Shaun Pollock that his team have the chance to imitate the rugby World Cup winning side of 1995 - and the former Premier even donned a team shirt, just like he did eight years ago when he presented the rugby trophy to captain Francois Pienaar at Johannesburg's Ellis Park. "South Africa has never won the World Cup of cricket," said Mandela as he met the players before the match.
"You are pioneers. You can open a new chapter in South African cricket. I'll remind you what Francois Pienaar said after the Springboks won the rugby World Cup," Mandela was quoted by the SAPA news agency. "He said that they were not only playing for the 60,000 people in the stadium. They were playing for the 40 million people in the country." Mandela stood on the winners' podium in 1995, clad in a No 6 Springbok rugby jersey, as Pienaar lifted the trophy. "But before the first game against Australia - at the beginning of the tournament - I told our boys that if we win this game, we'll go straight through to the end. That's exactly what happened.
"If you beat the Windies, you can also go all the way." Pollock said Mandela's informal chat had spared him the task of motivating the players before the match. "It's a huge inspiration knowing that you are right behind us and wearing our shirt," Pollock told Mandela. "We are going to go out and play hard for you and the country."