Don Beck’s 1995 Strategy to Unite South Africa through Rugby

In celebrating the life of the great South African leader Nelson Mandela we often ignore the work that was done behind the scenes that made the story of South Africa possible. For a period of ten years my mentor and friend Dr. Don Edward Beck was one of many people who worked with many stakeholders in South Africa to insure the transition from Apartheid is as smooth as possible. What is not being mentioned by the media is that the Orange values in South Africa (industry) took the lead is transitioning the country out it its segregated past. Much of that work is detailed in the book The Crucible; Forging South Africa’s Future, which Dr. Beck co-wrote with South African Journalist Graham Linscott. The book will be republished in 2014 on its 20th Anniversary with an update on where South Africa is today and how far it has come in implementing the Road map outlined in the book. It is ironic that when Madeba passed,  Dr. Beck (after a 15-year absence from South Africa), was in Johannesburg on a tour of South African universities for a closer Memetic assessment of where the country has moved to in the last two decades.

Since work behind the scenes does not make for a sexy read or for prime time media coverage, here is a story that will. Many readers have seen the movie Invictus. What people don’t know is that Don Beck, who was a football player in his youth, became the team psychologist for the New Orleans Saints. Sports psychology remains Don’s passion till this day. In South Africa, he became a close friend and adviser to the Springbok coach Kitch Chritie and team captain François Piennar.  Don declined the invitation to be the adviser on the movie because of certain historic inaccuracies in the script.


Here’s how journalist Linscott described Don’s strategy: Beck recommended that an African crowd song should be introduced at The World Cup matches. That if possible the support of Nelson should be enlisted… It is history now, but the mainly white crowds adopted the African miners’ song Shosholoza. Afrikaner hardliners cheered and wept with emotion as Nelson Mandela wore Piennar’s No.7 jersey before the final game. Black newspapers, which had ignored Rugby as a white sport, went into frenzies of excitement with each succeeding World Cup Victory. Never before had the new South Africa been more emotionally united. Sports unity is something Beck always called for, not just for its own sake, but as a nation-builder.

For the detailed strategy that Don outlined, please click on this link to an interview Don did with our associate Russ Volkman, editor of Integral Leadership Review  after the release of Invictus.

Invictus & Don Beck’s Six Games to Glory


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