Full name Jacobus Francois Pienaar
Born January 2, 1967, Vereeniging
Current age 50 years 112 days
Major teams Saracens, South Africa
Height 6 ft 3 in
Weight 238 lb
|IRB Rugby World Cup||1995-1995||5||5||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||0||0||100.00|
|The Rugby Championship||1996-1996||4||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||3||0||25.00|
|Test debut||South Africa v France at Durban, Jun 26, 1993 match details|
|Last Test||South Africa v New Zealand at Cape Town, Aug 10, 1996 match details|
|Test Statsguru||Main menu | Career summary | Match list | Most points | Most tries | Tournament list|
The image of Francois Pienaar accepting the Webb Ellis Cup from Nelson Mandela following the 1995 World Cup final is one that has lived long in the memory of rugby fans the world over. As a symbol of South Africa's rehabilitation into the sporting landscape, it was monumental, and cast Pienaar as one of the all-time great Springboks.
His first-class career began in 1989, when he made his debut for Transvaal. He would go on to make over 100 appearances for the province, 89 as captain. As the Springboks were struggling with their reintroduction to international rugby, Pienaar was reaping the rewards with Transvaal. In 1993 South Africa, under Naas Botha, lost Tests to New Zealand, Australia, France and England while Pienaar led Transvaal to the inaugural Super 10 title and the Currie Cup.
Following the resignation of Botha in 1993 the bold step was taken to install Pienaar as captain in his debut Test match against France at the ABSA Stadium. The Springboks drew 20-20 in this first Test, and lost by a single point in the second. It was a credible start for Pienaar, and over the next year South Africa registered wins over Argentina, Scotland and Wales to begin their improvement as a unit.
Any side with a captain such as Pienaar is bound to feel the positive effects of his presence. He was courageous to the point of endangering his health and ruthlessly combative. He played the game as though it was a personal affront to see the opposition with the ball.
Pienaar led the Springboks into the 1995 World Cup knowing that they had a tremendous struggle ahead of them if they were to win. Their task began with a daunting fixture against the reigning champions Australia at Newlands. Australia were undefeated for a full year before this curtain raiser, but Pienaar's underdog side were in no mood to stand on ceremony as tries from Joel Stransky and Pieter Hendriks sunk the Wallabies 27-18.
From there on Pienaar's side overcame obstacle after obstacle, whether it be a mass-brawl against Canada costing them the services of hooker James Dalton or the semi-final against France, in which conditions were almost unplayable following apocalyptic storms over the ABSA Stadium.
Pienaar's men triumphed over all the odds, and faced up to the fearsome All Blacks and their try-machine Jonah Lomu.
Three penalties and two drop goals from Joel Stransky were enough to see the Springboks to glory, but it was the magnificent marshalling of Lomu by the South Africa back row that really drove home their victory.
In an early precursor to rush defence, the man-mountain Lomu was never free of the attentions of Pienaar, Mark Andrews and Ruben Kruger. Despite his glorious achievements as captain, Pienaar's relatively brief international career ended ignominiously. Coach Andre Markgraaff unceremoniously dropped Pienaar ahead of the 1996 Tri-Nations Test with New Zealand, and Pienaar would never play for the Springboks again.
Following the end of his international career Pienaar made a high-profile switch to Saracens, alongside fellow superstars Michael Lynagh and Phillipe Sella. Pienaar led Saracens to their first trophy in 127 years with triumph in the 1998 Tetleys' Bitter Cup before retiring in 2000. His immediate future remained with Saracens, as he took up a position as CEO and coach until 2002, when he resigned and returned to Cape Town with his family. He later rekindled his relationship with Saracens as a non-executive director of Premier Team Holdings, a major investor in the club.
Pienaar is a man who in one moment managed to transcend the world of sport, creating an image alongside Mandela that will serve as a reminder for fans the world over of the changes for good that have occurred in the recent history of the game.
As a player he was a defensive rock, as a captain a courageous leader and as a South African he became a legend.