Sunday, 27 December 2009


I watched live on TV, the dramatic 1995 Rugby World Cup final between the victorious South Africa Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks. It was a fairy tale come true for the Boks and at the time, no country needed to win the Webb Ellis trophy more than South Africa. Mind you, it was indeed a very strong field in 1995; holders Australia had not lost a match in the preceding 12 months, England and France were always a threat and the Jonah Lomu powered All Blacks was the in-form hot favorite!
I clearly remember thinking then that the Bokka story would make a great movie. This morning, 14 years later I found out Clint Eastwood's new movie "Invictus" is that movie. The film is a look at the life of Nelson Mandela after the fall of apartheid in South Africa, during his term as president, when he campaigned to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup event as an opportunity to unite his countrymen.

Invictus, a Latin word meaning unconquerable, undefeated, is also the title of a short poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley. It is the title of the movie because of the fact that Mandela had the poem written on a scrap of paper on his prison cell while he was incarcerated.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus, the movie has it that Mandela gives the "Invictus" poem to Springbok captain, Francois Pienaar, before the start of the Rugby World Cup. In reality, however, Mandela actually provided Pienaar with an extract from Theodore Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" speech from 1910. The following is an excerpt:

"...It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat..." is to watch the movie!

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