When you consider the impact Madiba has had on all of our lives, I am not sure how words can describe it. For me it began the day he walked out of prison. I watched the occasion sitting in my apartment in France as a young man playing rugby overseas. Little did I know that a few years later, he would have such a huge impact on my life.
I have been fortunate to meet Madiba on many occasions and the first was just before the beginning of the 1995 Rugby World when he flew into Silver Mines to wish the team good luck before we took on Australia in the opening game. This show of support from the most inspirational and charismatic man of the modern world certainly played a role in our victory over Australia, and indeed the success of the whole campaign.
Madiba surprised us and graced us with his presence before the final too, famously wearing a No 6 shirt and a Bok cap. And who will ever forget Madiba's broad smile while holding up the Webb Ellis Cup, and maybe only in latter years would we as South Africans realise the value of the "Madiba Factor", which is not only hugely inspiring for all our teams and athletes but also rather intimidating for the opposition!
But undoubtedly one of the highlights of my life, and certainly my "Mandela moment", would be the opportunity for my wife, Karen, and me to have a private Sunday lunch with Madiba at his home. We both sat in absolute awe of the man, listening to every wise word, absorbing all his kindness and wisdom. He spoke of his time on Robben Island, the crayfish he ate, his love for boxing and rugby and the wine he prefers. And what will live in our minds forever is his compassion and the warmth of his heart!
My wife insisted on us taking along a painting from the World Cup for him to sign. I was too embarrassed to even ask him, but he volunteered before we could sneak it out the house and then smiled broadly for a couple of photos. Both the painting and the lunch remind us consistently of one of the greatest lunches possible!