The Day I had Lunch with Nelson Mandela

The Day I had Lunch with Nelson Mandela

Being a professional Sportsman for most of my life opened some incredible doors for me. It gave me the opportunity to meet some inspirational people, some of which are my personal heroes. One of the most unforgettable meetings was with President Nelson Mandela. 

When I retired from rugby in 2005 I decided to write a book called “ The right place at the wrong time”. This title was referring to the era that I played in the Springbok Rugby Team. When I look back, I still had the privilege of playing in an era where Nelson Mandela was the president of South Africa. A great revolutionary time for us. That was  “The right place at the right time”.

I had met Nelson Mandela at many large functions including his 80th birthday celebration in Sandton. There was one visit in particular that I will never forget. It was when my family and I were invited to his house in Bishops Court, Cape Town. His assistant, Zelda had set up the one-on-one and I will never forget his first words to me: “Good afternoon Corné. Why would a young strong man like you come and visit an insignificant old man like me?”

He knew he wasn’t insignificant at all, but he just wanted me and my family to feel more comfortable. To be able to spend an hour around a table with the most famous person in the world at the time, is something I will forever be grateful for. His inner peace, humility and sense of humour is something I will always aspire to for the rest of my life. 

As the world celebrates Mandela Day today, I would like us all to remember his legacy. Be kind. Love others and always be humble. Happy Birthday Tata Madiba. 

Read more about my personal heroes in my latest blog piece: Inspirational Leaders Join the conversation on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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