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Rugby union referee remembers ‘extraordinary’ transformation of South Africa in 1995 final

Hosting the World Cup was an opportunity for new president Nelson Mandela to try and unite the country behind the Springboks.

Edward Morrison is made an OBE by the Queen (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Edward Morrison is made an OBE by the Queen (Jonathan Brady/PA)

England’s first full-time professional rugby union referee has spoken of the “extraordinary” transformation he saw in South Africa when he officiated the 1995 World Cup final.

Ed Morrison was honoured with an OBE by the Queen at Windsor Castle on Friday for his services to rugby union.

He refereed the 1995 final between South Africa and New Zealand, the first major sporting event to be held in the country following the end of apartheid.

The host nation’s political problems meant the World Cup was a test and opportunity for new president Nelson Mandela to try and unite the country behind their team, the Springboks.

After receiving his honour at the investiture ceremony, Mr Morrison told the Press Association: “I’d been to South Africa a few times before that … the transformation when I came back in ’95 was quite extraordinary.

Referee Ed. Morrison supervises a line out

“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.

“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.”

After his officiating career, Mr Morrison took on the role of head of elite referee development for the Rugby Football Union.

Former rugby union referee Edward Morrison holds his OBE that was presented to him by Queen Elizabeth II at an Investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.

He has remained involved with the sport, saying: “I don’t know anything else if I’m honest with you.”

When asked about the struggles some athletes face after finishing their sporting career, Mr Morrison said: “I think the interesting thing is that you come into something knowing that you can’t do it forever.

“You’ll reach an age where you’ll say my body will not allow me to do that anymore, and you have to recognise that and just be thankful for the good times you’ve had, the experiences you’ve enjoyed, and then you say ‘right what am I going to do next?’

“I’m going to try and put something back in. People helped me, without the people who helped me at the beginning I would not have been fortunate to have achieved what I achieved.”

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph