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1995 rugby union World Cup final referee Morrison recalls South Africa ‘transformation’

The man in charge of the 1995 World Cup final referee recalled the “extraordinary transformation” in South Africa after receiving a public honour from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II for his services to rugby on Friday.

English official Ed Morrison was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, southwest of London.

Morrison was the man in the middle when tournament hosts South Africa beat favourites and arch-rivals New Zealand 15-12 after extra-time in the final at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park.

The 1995 Rugby World Cup was the first major international sporting tournament staged in South Africa since the end of the apartheid.

The final was notable when the then South Africa president Nelson Mandela, who had been imprisoned under the apartheid regime, walked out to meet the two teams wearing a replica Springbok shirt — once seen as a symbol of oppression by many of the country’s non-white population — in a gesture aimed at building racial unity in the new ‘rainbow nation’.

“I’d been to South Africa a few times before that…the transformation when I came back in ’95 was quite extraordinary,” Morrison told the Press Association, Britain’s national news agency.

“You just sensed that the whole country was in this case behind the rugby team, which was very different from what I experienced previous to that.”

He added: “And obviously by then Nelson Mandela was instilled and was exerting tremendous influence, in such a humble way — the people’s man if you like.

“The atmosphere in the stadium, you just sensed it was different.”