The International Rugby Board and the global rugby family have been paying tribute to Nelson Mandela, who passed away in Johannesburg on Thursday, age 95.
The inspirational former South African leader and father of the 'Rainbow Nation' changed the face of rugby in South Africa, using the opportunity of hosting Rugby World Cup 1995 to project the sport's character-building values to unite a nation.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset led the tributes on behalf of the global rugby community.
"Mr Mandela was a truly remarkable man," he said.
"I was honoured to be with him during the historic days of Rugby World Cup 1995 and saw his incredible impact on his nation and his people. His wisdom, intelligence and sheer presence was a wonder to behold."
"I am so proud that the rugby family could play its small part in supporting Mr Mandela's efforts to establish the new South Africa and that our tournament came to symbolise the emergence of a new nation. He changed the world and we were privileged to witness and embrace his work."
"Our thoughts are with Mr Mandela's family, the South African Rugby Union and the people of South Africa at this time of mourning."
IRB vice chairman and South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins said: "The South African Rugby Union shares in our nation's sadness.
"Madiba was a great man of vision, determination and integrity who performed a miracle that amazed the world as much as it amazed his own fellow countrymen.
"His name will rank among those of the greatest liberators and humanitarians for as long as mankind walks the earth. It was our privilege to have lived in this country during his lifetime.
"All our lives are poorer today at the extinguishing of the great beacon of light and hope that led the way for our country through the transition to democracy.
"We have been steeling ourselves for this day for some time but, now it has arrived, the sadness is no less. Madiba had a place in all our hearts and his passing is a personal blow to us all.
"Mr Mandela was also instrumental in retaining the Springbok as the emblem for our national team at a time when a chorus of voiced advocated a change of the symbol. It was an act of reconciliation and generosity of spirit which no one could have expected.
"The South African Rugby Union also sincerely appreciated the many times he inspired the Springboks to many great heights on the playing field.
"However, Mr Mandela inspired the entire South African nation with his kindness, generosity and ability not only to forgive, but also to understand his fellow citizens."
SANZAR CEO Greg Peters also paid tribute to Mandela.
"Madiba exerted a profoundly positive impact upon the world, but especially within his home country of South Africa where he famously championed sport as a vehicle of inspiration and social change.
"The way in which he galvanised the nation during the Springboks' Rugby World Cup triumph of 1995 is an indelible moment in history and an iconic example of Madiba's tremendous influence and ability to unite.
"Madiba was - and will continue to be - an inspiration to all through the courageous legacy he leaves behind. He will be sadly missed not only by the rugby family, but by the world as a whole."
NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew saluted Mandela, saying the sport had lost "a champion of our game" with his passing.
"New Zealand Rugby has enormous respect for Mr Mandela and his incredible contribution to his country and people," he said.
"We have lost a champion for our game, a leader whose inspiration ensured Rugby World Cup in 1995 was a remarkable time for our sport and whose influence on sport has been far-reaching.
"His presentation of the Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar after South Africa overcame the All Blacks in the Final is a moment that few New Zealanders will ever forget."
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver added: "On behalf of Australian Rugby, we extend our condolences to the Mandela family, South Africa and the South African rugby community.
"We admire Nelson Mandela's immense courage and his ability to inspire millions around the world through his remarkable leadership and his ability to unite South Africa through rugby.
"His legacy on our game and our generation will be remembered and honoured."