Top 10 Interesting Facts about Francois Pienaar


François Pienaar. Photo Sourced from Wikimedia

Jacobus Francois Pienaar is a retired South African Rugby player who made history during his play times. He was born on 2nd January 1967 in Vereeniging, South Africa.

Francois was the eldest of four boys in a working-class Afrikaner family in South Africa. He won an athletic scholarship that aided him to join Rand Afrikaans University.

Francois studied law, but his interests were elsewhere. The best position Francois was as a flanker for the Springboks of South Africa from 1993 to 1996.

He went ahead to win 29 international caps in which he was the captain. The best history about Francois Pienaar is when he led South Africa to the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Francois’s career for South Africa did not end well as he was dropped in 1996 and made a decision of starting a career with an English club Saracens. Here are the top 10 Interesting Facts about Francois Pienaar;

1. Francois was the Eldest Son in a Working-Class Afrikaner Family

In 1967, Francois Pienaar was born to an Afrikaner family. His family was well off financially as they were working.

The father of Francois was known as Louis Pienaar and his mother was Maria Magdalena le Roux. Francois was the eldest son of a family of four.

2. He Won an Athletic Scholarship and Studied Law

Francois was a hard-working student while in school. Other than concentrating on his studies only, Francois was also actively participating in sporting activities.

He completed his high school studies at Hoërskool Patriot Witbank with the ambition of studying law. Participation in athletic competitions made Francois Pienaar win a scholarship to study law at the Rand Afrikaans University.

Francois managed to complete his studies in law and continued with his passion for rugby too.

3. Francois was Named Captain of the South Africa Team from his First Test

François Pienaar. Photo Sourced from WIKIMEDIA

Pienaar made his professional and provincial rugby debut for Transvaal Province in 1989. His brilliant performances could not be overlooked.

Francois was selected to the South African rugby team in 1993 where he played till 1996. He was made the captain of the South African team from his first appearance for the squad.

Francois remained to be the captain of the Springbok till he left. He is still one of the most successful captains of the South African team.

4. Francois Led South Africa to Win the 1995 World Cup

During his era as the captain of South Africa, Francois Pienaar had several achievements. He is most renowned for his heroics of leading the South Africa rugby team to win the 1995 World Cup.

South Africa was not expected to win and dethrone the incumbent champions Australia during this competition. However, Francois led his team to remarkable wins against top countries.

They defeated Australia, Romania, Canada, Western Samoa and France to lift the trophy. In the final, Francois faced New Zealand at Ellis Park Stadium.

Francois led the team to a three-point victory. This was brought about by the drop goal from Joel Stransky.

5. Nelson Mandela Wore Springbok Jersey Bearing Pienaar’s Number during Post Match Ceremony

Nelson Mandela presents William Webb Ellis’s (Rugby World Cup) Trophy to Francois Pienaar at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. Author; World rugby. WIKIMEDIA

The 1995 rugby World Cup win was a major achievement for Francois and the national team. His heroics in leading the squad was hailed by several people including the late President Nelson Mandela.

After the match, Nelson Mandela joined the team during the post-match presentation ceremony. During the ceremony, Nelson Mandela wore the jersey bearing Francois’s number as he presented the Webb Ellis Cup.

Francois made a touching speech as he stated the win was not for the 60K fans only, but also the 43M South Africans.

6. Francois Led a Stand-Off with SARFU and Threatened to Join Australia and New Zealand, Teams

After one month after the World Cup’s win, Francois Pienaar did not have a good time with the South African Rugby Union. Francois wanted the team members to play professionally for the World Rugby Corporation.

A stand-off erupted whereby Francois led his teammates to threaten to join Australia and New Zealand, teams. Francois managed to convince numerous players to sign and play professionally for WRC. The standoff never ended well for Francois Pienaar.

7. Francois Negotiated Deal to Turn Rugby into a Professional Game

In 1995, Francois Pienaar was fighting for the rights of rugby players to be signed as professionals. The SARFU was against making these changes suggested by Francois who never gave up.

Francois was important in negotiating a deal between SANZAR and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation which agreed to turn rugby into a professional game. Several Springbok players were offered with given professional contracts after the successful negotiations with Francois.

The International Rugby Board was also in favour of the idea of turning rugby into a professional game. Francois was branded a traitor by some older rugby players for selling out South African rugby to professionalism.

8. Francois was Dropped Out of Springbok on Accusations of Feigning an Injury

Francois Pienaar switched from being a hero of Springbok to a villain after trying to fight for the rights of his teammates. In 1996, Francois captained the Springbok for the last time.

The coach, Andre Mark Markgraaff accused Francois of feigning an injury during a match. Francois was dropped from Springbok after captaining the team to 26 caps only.

9. Francois Left for Britain where His Success Continued in Player-Coach Role

After getting dropped from the South Africa team, Francois decided to continue his career elsewhere. Francois left South Africa for Britain where his success continued.

He signed for Watford-based club Saracens where he was given a player-coach role. While at Saracens, Francois led the team to defeat London Wasps to win Pilkington Cup and finished second in the Zurich Premiership.

In the next two seasons, Saracens also secured the third and fourth spots. They also qualified for the European Cup in consecutive seasons.

10. Nelson Mandela was the Godfather of Francois’s Sons

Francois Pienaar married Nerine Winter. During his career spell, Francois lived away from his family.

He had two sons with whom he returned to live in Cape Town in 2002. The two sons of Francois Pienaar had President Nelson Mandela as their godfather.


Francois Pienaar is a past, current and future mentor for all young dreams who have to push hard to succeed.

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