Francois Pienaar was born and educated in the Transvaal and holds law degrees from the University of Johannesburg.
During his schools years, he represented South Africa in both rugby and cricket. His decision to ultimately choose the game of rugby was truly justified. He eventually 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. He was acknowledged at that time as an inspiring leader, with an uncompromising approach to commitment. He has won many accolades, which include South African Rugby Player of the Year 1993, International Rugby Player of the Year 1994, International Rugby Captain of the Year 1995, and Rugby Personality of the Year 1996 as nominated by the top 20 rugby writers in Britain. Francois was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 2005.
In 1996, he joined the Saracens Club in England and later became the first player-coach and CEO at the club. Francois helped to transform Saracens from an amateur to a very professional rugby club, under his leadership winning their first ever trophy in 127 years. Francois received an honorary doctorate on 23 November 2000 from the University of Hertfordshire at the age of 33.
Francois was chosen to be the ambassador for Guinness and Visa, the main sponsors during the 1999 and 2004 Rugby World Cups, was part of the ITV Rugby World Cup commentary team, 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.
Francois and his family - his wife Nerine and boys Jean and Stephane - returned home to South Africa in 2005, where Francois was approached by the First Rand Group, becoming head of sponsorships and strategic business development. He was seconded by First National Bank as CEO for the 2011 Rugby World cup bid, and was Provincial Chairman of First National Bank in the Western Cape until 2009.
In March 2009 Francois was approached by the Indian Premier League to spearhead their marketing campaign in South Africa.
He left First Rand Bank to follow his passion for sport, media and entertainment and started Advent Sport Entertainment and Media (Pty) Ltd in 2009 in which First Rand Bank became a shareholder.
Francois is involved in numerous charities and was the founder of the Make A Difference (MAD) charitable organisation when he returned to South Africa.
Of Francois, Nelson Mandela has said: 'It was under his inspiring leadership that rugby became the pride of the entire county, his leadership extended beyond the field of rugby and he truly represents all South Africans. Under his inspiring leadership a nation was brought together.'
In 2009 Warner Brothers under the direction of Clint Eastwood produced the Oscar nominated movie Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon and focusing on the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, and the story of a once divided nation coming together as world champions.
Francois Pienaar travels from South Africa
- The Courage to Lead