This Day in Black History: June 24, 1995

President Nelson Mandela cheers on the South African Rugby team.

Posted: 06/24/2014 12:00 AM EDT

 (Photo: David Rogers/ALLSPORT)

During apartheid, Blacks were prohibited from being on South Africa's rugby team. Nelson Mandela, on June 24, 1995, used the sport to help heal decades-old wounds caused by the nation's history of racism. The newly elected president appeared at a Rugby World Cup finals match in Johannesburg to cheer on the South African team as it played and ultimately defeated New Zealand.

As Mandela appeared on the field wearing the team's colors and a gold No. 6 on the back of his rugby shirt, the fans went wild, shouting "Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!" He was wearing the number of player and friend Pienaar. Actors Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon portrayed their friendship in the film Invictus.

In 2007, the moment was declared to be the greatest moment in Rugby World Cup history.

"Sport has the power to change the world," Mandela said five years after the match. "It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.

Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.

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