Johannesburg – Nelson Mandela was loved throughout the world because of his ability to connect with people from all walks of life, Sharks rugby boss John Smit said on Friday.
“He was loved by the world because of his leadership,” said Smit, who is a former Springbok captain.
“This is what we will all miss the most but remember the best.”
Mandela died on Thursday night at his Houghton, Johannesburg, home surrounded by family. He was 95.
Smit said he was fortunate enough to have shared a special bond with the former president.
“I first met Madiba before my first Test match in 2000 and I was more nervous about meeting the great man than making my Springbok debut,” said Smit.
“He saw that, smiled and embraced me. He made it just so easy to speak to him.”
Smit went on to win over 100 caps for South Africa before retiring in 2011.
“For me as a player, the moments I had with him on a one-on-one basis and from a team perspective is something I will cherish forever.”
Blue Bulls Company chief executive Barend van Graan said the world had been blessed to have Nelson Mandela live in it.
“Today is a massive loss for this country. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that we were truly blessed to have had such an inspirational man touch our lives,” Van Graan said in a statement issued by the Pretoria-based rugby body.
“Humble, knowledgeable, determined, and loving, Mr Mandela portrayed so many ideals for which we as a company strive to achieve in everything we do.
“Mr Mandela fought for what he believed in which was peace and equality – something all South Africans must continue to work towards.” – Sapa