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The Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate

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On Saturday Australia will host South Africa in the 1st of four matches this year between the two sides.

The Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate was first contested in 2000. The concept involved a one-off match (outside the Tri Nations Series) to be contested every two years, alternating between Australia and South Africa.

This year however, the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate will be contested over a two (home and away) match series, again outside the Tri Nations Series.

South Africa currently holds the Plate, so the Qantas Wallabies must win both matches.

The first leg is this Saturday, July 9th at Sydney’s Telstra Stadium. The second leg will be held at Ellis Park, Johannesburg on July 23rd and Mr Mandela himself will attend this match.

The inaugural Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate match was played at Melbourne’s Telstra Dome on July 8, 2000 with the Wallabies winning the contest 44-23. Prior to the match, Mr Mandela addressed the crowd and television audience via satellite.

John Eales raised the Plate, which is a sleek, classic designed silver plate with a thick 24 carat rim and central a gold disk featuring a Wallaby and a Springbok. To emphasise the link with Rugby, the back of the Plate is leather clad.

It literally is a plate, hence the name Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate as opposed to Cup or Trophy. The Plate was handcrafted by Flynn Silver, a family company from Kyneton in Victoria.

Due to scheduling issues, the second Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate match was incorporated into the Tri Nations series (i.e. it was not an “extra” match) and was played at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on August 17, 2002.

It was Corne Krige’s turn to raise the Plate after the Springboks scored late to win the match 33-31 in a thriller.

A combination of issues including scheduling for 2004, and the additional matches between Australia and South Africa scheduled for 2005 as a consequence of the Lions tour of New Zealand, made 2005 the logical choice for the third Mandela Plate contest.

The Australian Rugby Union and the South African Rugby Union are presently discussing the possibility that from 2006, the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate could become an annual three Test series, akin to the Bledisloe Cup, to be played within the Tri Nations series.

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