Nelson Mandela has spent 27 years in prison during South African apartheid. Only four years after his release, he is elected the first black President of South Africa, which many people worry will create unrest. He seeks to unite his country across the racial divisions that have arisen. In order to do so, he finds an opportunity for the country to unite around the South African rugby team and devotes much of his time to motivating the team to victory. Mandela is depicted as an endlessly compassionate, strong, and generous man. However, he also works too hard and suffers from distant and difficult relationships with his family members, who disagree with him politically and resent the ways his politics have changed their lives.
Francois is the captain of the South African Springboks rugby team and their blindside flanker. Francois becomes an ally of Mandela when the president calls him in for tea and expresses his desire to unite the country through rugby. He trains hard and stands up for what Mandela is doing even though many of his peers harbor prejudice against black South Africans. Francois goes on to lead the Springboks to a World Cup victory against the New Zealand All Blacks in 1995, a victory that helps to generate unity in the country.
Chester is the Springbok's left wing during their run to the World Cup. Most significantly he is the only black player on the team. He is beloved by black South African fans and becomes the poster boy for the Springboks as they embark in playing the World Cup.
Jason is Nelson Mandela's security chief now that Mandela has become president of South Africa. Jason has concerns about white men being part of his security staff as Mandela has been threatened by the white people of South Africa who have segregated themselves from the black people in order to keep power for themselves. Jason accepts Mandela's request and works with the white security officers; eventually, the men find themselves on the same side, as the Springboks journey to victory in the World Cup.
Brenda is Mandela's assistant. She appreciates and respects him, but often wonders why he is so obsessed with rugby rather than caring about his loftier responsibilities as the president. She discourages him from overworking and looks out for him. Eventually, she comes around, and understands why rugby has been such an important interest of Mandela's.
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