As the death of Nelson Mandela intensified emotions
around the globe yesterday, former All Black coach Laurie Mains
shared his impressions of the man he believed had the greatest
influence on his life.
Mr Mains said he first met the former South African president
at Ellis Park during the 1995 Rugby World Cup - a moment
indelibly etched on his memory.
It was just five years after Mr Mandela had been released
from a 27-year prison sentence for sabotage and conspiracy to
overthrow the government, and the civil rights activist had
became the first black president of South Africa.
His entrance to Ellis Park to greet the world watching the
1995 World Cup final between the home nation and the All
Blacks was met with a fervour seldom seen.
It was a moment which displayed the nation's new-found unity.
For the 72,000 spectators at the park, and those watching at
home, the symbolism of the black leader and the white
captain, side by side, wearing South African rugby jerseys,
was dramatic. Mr Mains said it was an atmosphere he would
''On meeting him for the first time, you meet this very warm,
charismatic individual, who is so easy to speak to.
''Knowing what he went through - the persecution that he
faced - the balance, compassion and forgiveness that that man
displayed . . . and to turn around and unite his country the
way he did, is nothing short of miraculous.''
Mr Mains said he was fortunate to meet Mr Mandela again,
later in 1995 at a fundraiser for an injured South African
rugby player, and in 1999 when he was coaching the South
Each time was an honour, and he left each meeting feeling
just as inspired as the time before.
Mr Mandela was a man like no other, and Mr Mains believed we
could all take a leaf out of his book.
''If a few more leaders in the world had his balance and
compassion, the world would be a very much better place to
''It's something that very few people could achieve.
''He inspired a nation. I don't think there is anyone I would
have met that would have had a greater influence on me -
that's the type of person he was.''