Francois Pienaar

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World Rugby Champion

Inspirational Stories
Sports - Other
Team Building

Francois Pienaar: Biography at a Glance

  • Francois Pienaar is a rugby player best known for captaining South Africa and being depicted by Matt Damon in the Oscar-nominated film Invictus, which chronicles his successful pursuit of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
  • Pienaar was presented with the Webb Ellis Cup by former President Nelson Mandela for his inspiring leadership that helped a divided nation become world champions and come together.
  • He won 29 international caps as captain of the South African national team.
  • Pienaar was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame and the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame.



Francois Pienaar, born and educated in the Transvaal is world-renowned for his depth of leadership expertise and many impressive accomplishments. Best known for leading South Africa to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup; a highly revered and successful businessman; renowned and respected television commentator and a passionate philanthropist, are but a few phrases that are synonymous with this South African icon.

Francois holds law degrees from the University of Johannesburg as well as an honorary doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire.

Francois captained a remarkable Transvaal side that went through the entire 1993 season undefeated; winning four competitions including the inaugural Super 10, no other rugby team has ever achieved this remarkable feat! He went on to play for South Africa, captaining the side in his first match and in every one of his 29 appearances, culminating in the famous victory at the World Cup in 1995.

Francois was acknowledged at that time as an inspiring leader, with an uncompromising approach to commitment. His many accolades include:

  • South African Rugby Player of the Year 1993
  • International Rugby Player of the Year 1994
  • International Rugby Captain of the Year 1995
  • Rugby Personality of the Year nominated by the top 20 rugby writers in Britain in 1996
  • Voted 50th in the top 100 greatest South Africans
  • Inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 2005
  • Inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame 2011
  • Steve Tshwete Lifetime Achievement Award 2016

In 1996, Francois joined the Saracens Club in England and later became the first ever player/coach. Francois went on to become the CEO at Saracens, under Francois's leadership Saracens won their first ever trophy in 127 years, another one of many rugby accolades to his name. Francois is currently a Saracens board member.

Francois was chosen to be the ambassador for Guinness and Visa, the main sponsors during the 1999 and 2003 Rugby World Cups. He was also part of the ITV Rugby World Cup commentary team in 2007, 2011, and 2015 and was twice nominated by the Royal Television Society for an award as best sports pundit. He has been the only amateur to receive such a nomination.

After returning home to South Africa with his family, Francois was approached by the First Rand Group where he became Head of Sponsorships and Strategic Business Development, swiftly moving up the ranks, in 2005, Francois was seconded by First National Bank as CEO for the 2011 Rugby World cup bid, going on to become the Provincial Chairman in the Western Cape.

In March 2009 Francois was approached by the Indian Premier League to spearhead their marketing campaign in South Africa.

Later in 2009 following his passion for sport and entertainment Francois started Advent Sport Entertainment and Media (Pty) Ltd (ASEM) in which First Rand Bank became a shareholder.

Francois's vision for ASEM is for it to be the leading multimedia rights organization in youth sport and entertainment, through an innovative approach ASEM develops, owns, and manages multimedia rights predominantly in the youth market.

Francois is Chairman of ASEM Varsity Sports and Chairman of the Cape Town Marathon.

While currently CEO of the ASEM group of companies Francois is also involved in numerous charities.

In 2003 Francois founded the MAD Leadership Foundation to create a comprehensive and long-term support structure to invest in young leaders in South Africa, who have talent and drive, but who are bridled by factors beyond their control, factors hindering their ability to reach their full potential.  The MAD Leadership Foundation has received numerous accolades for its efficiency, governance, and probity. MAD has a comprehensive Scholar Wellness, Development, and Support Programme and boasts a number of exceptional alumni including Spencer Horne who graduated from Harvard University in 2014 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

In March 2023 Francois was honoured to receive the Oxonian Award which recognizes the extraordinary lifetime achievements of luminaries who represent the very best values, ideals, and the culture of excellence that embody the University of Oxford and its illustrious history. For nearly 1,000 years, Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, has led the way as one of the most pioneering institutions globally, with an unrivaled track record for leading innovation, cutting-edge research, and intellectual discussion, that others have sought to emulate. No other institution can compete with Oxford’s legacy as the premier breeding ground for many of the world’s most successful people, kickstarting their prominent careers across nearly every field. The Guild's Oxonian Award takes its name from the Latin expression for students of the University and the city’s inhabitants and seeks to embody the values our talented, diverse, multicultural community holds dear: a commitment to excellence, to pushing boundaries and overcoming obstacles in everything that do and to contributing to the betterment of the world around us. The Award and recognition offer a fitting testament to this heritage and send a message to the world that its recipients are amongst the most inspiring, accomplished, and influential leaders not just in their fields but across the planet.

In 2009 Warner Brothers under the direction of Clint Eastwood produced the Oscar-nominated movie Invictus focusing on the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa and how a once divided nation became world champions. Mandela’s role is played by Morgan Freeman and Francois is played by Matt Damon.

Nelson Mandela said: “It was under his inspiring leadership that rugby became the pride of the entire country, his leadership extended beyond the field of rugby, and he truly represents all South Africans. Under his inspiring leadership, a nation was brought together.”


The Courage to Lead
Invictus: The Unconquerable Spirit that Makes Dreams Reality
Uniting a People and a Country: Nelson Mandela & François Pienaar

Francois was a SENSATIONAL hit for KPMG in Rome. He got rave reviews and the client was ecstatic! Please extend our thanks and appreciation to Francois for an outstanding presentation.

Senior Director of Meetings, KPMG

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