THE SPORT THAT UNITED A COUNTRY THE 1995 RUGBY WORLD CUP
In early November, the 2019 Rugby World Cup will wrap up in Japan. The international competition brings out world-class athletes and entertainment. While matches are certainly intense, respect for the competition and for referees is a core tenet of rugby culture. After going head-to-head with an opponent, you’ll still shake hands, and maybe have a beer together, at the end of a match. This principle was on full display nearly 25 years ago at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in South Africa. The South African Springboks were up against the New Zealand All Blacks, and a number of factors made this an exceptional match. Just a few years earlier in 1991, apartheid legislation had been repealed in South Africa. The policy had left a deep cut, and the country still had a long journey toward healing and reparation. Nelson Mandela, who had been elected in 1994, was set on championing a “rainbow nation” in this new postapartheid era.
the game. It was controversial because of its connection to the architects of apartheid, but Mandela saw rugby’s potential as a symbol of hope and unity for a country that desperately needed it. Springboks captain Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon in “Invictus,” the film adaptation of this event) thought the president’s support of the team was a brilliant act. “During those six weeks, what happened in this country was incredible,” Pienaar said. Just before the final game that would decide the 1995 World Cup winners, Mandela sported a Springboks jersey and stood behind the team. Through a hard-fought match, South Africa came out on top, and, after receiving the trophy from President Mandela, Pienaar explained the atmosphere of the event: “When the final whistle blew, this country changed forever.” If the 1995 World Cup was any indication, the camaraderie inherent to rugby can transcend all kinds of barriers. Meet a fellow rugby player or fan in any part of the world, and you’ll likely forge an instant kinship. In 2021, you can look forward to cheering on the women’s teams during the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Rugby started in England in the late 1800s, and colonizers took it to South Africa, where South Africans of every color embraced
WHEN IN ROME ...
Sam and I recently traveled to Italy for our friend’s wedding. I had never been before and looked forward to exploring such a historically rich place. We started our journey in Rome, where I was fortunate enough to visit the Vatican Museums and see the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s masterpiece is truly stunning. Although crowded with tourists, museum personnel did a good job of keeping the chapel quiet to allow for a moment of reflection. Our first full day in Rome was a major highlight. Sam studied in Rome for a summer while in college, so it was fun visiting some of her favorite spots during our three days there. We went inside the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon to satisfy my taste for history. The Colosseum was especially interesting. From Rome, we took a train north to Florence, where we climbed over 400 steps to the top of the Duomo, a magnificent cathedral in the town’s center. The entire facade of the cathedral is made from classic Italian marble, making it one of the most unique looking buildings I have ever seen. From the top, once we caught our breath, we could see the edges of the city. On our last night in Florence, we tried making pasta. A very sweet Florentine lady did her best
to show me how to roll out the dough and cut perfect raviolis and pappardelle, but mine came out mostly mangled. We ate them anyway, after her cooks added some delicious sauces to mask my misshapen cuts. For the record, Sam’s pasta looked much prettier than mine. The wedding was on the Amalfi Coast, so we made our way down to the western coast of Italy for the last leg of our trip. Our first two nights were spent in Sorrento, the birthplace of my Uncle Giuseppe DeMarco. Thanks to his recommendations, we had two of the best meals of the trip. Sorrento is also known for its limoncello, which they seemed to hand out like candy in every store. Finally, we made it to Ravello, which required a ferry from Sorrento to Amalfi and a death- defying bus ride up the mountain from the coast. But the views alone were worth it. It’s a picturesque town and a perfect location for a wedding. We had a wonderful time at the ceremony and reception. Sam and I were so grateful for the invitation and the chance to travel to such a beautiful place. Arrivederci!
– Jon Svitak
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