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"Invictus", a movie variant by Steve Payne

Author says: what if Nelson Mandela had chosen the 1999 Cricket World Cup instead of the 1995 Rugby World Cup as a symbol for balancing black aspirations with white fears? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

In 2009, the odd-ball movie Invictus (Latin: Invincible) premiered in theatres across North America.

Expecting a "larger than life" tribute, cinema go-ers were shocked to discover that director Clint Eastwood had abandoned form by portraying an alternate timeline in which Nelson Mandela's personal and political fortunes are dashed in a decade-long South African tragedy.
Click to watch the Movie Trailer on Youtube

Trouble begins early in the movie with the breakdown of his second marriage to wife Winnie. And in a scene intended to symbolize the frustation of white disempowerment, national cricket captain Wessel Johannes "Hansie" Cronje spears an umpire's dressing room door with a wicket stump.

As the country drifts towards Civil War, Mandela seeks out a national symbol that will heal the wounds of apartheid. A talisman is needed that will serve as a platform upon which he can build a new "Rainbow Nation". Mistakenly, he chooses the "Proteas", the national cricket team, and their iconic captain, Hansie Cronje.

I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.

Alongside Cronje is the trusted figure of Bob Woolmer (pictured with Cronje, below). A famous English batsman from the nineteen seventies, he was appointed coach of South Africa in 1994. Initially his team performed poorly, losing all six matches on his first outing in Pakistan. However, in the next five years, South Africa won most of their Test (10 out of 15 series) and One Day International matches (73%). Having the highest ODI success rate among international teams in that period, an overconfident Woolmer assures Mandela that a South African victory is more than possible.

Acting on this poor advice, Mandela appeals to Cronje to win the world cup for all forty-three million South Africans. Appointed national captain aged just twenty-four, Cronje is by now a thirty-year old sporting legend. Universally adored in South Africa, he is respected overseas as a world-class batsmen that strikes fear into the opposition. But unbeknown to the President, the national cricket team is gripped by a match-fixing scandal, organised by none other than Cronje himself.

Shortly after Mandela travels to England for the tournament, the United Cricket Board of South Africa deny that any of their players were involved in match-fixing. Cronje then falsely claims that "the allegations are completely without substance". But just two days before the inaugural match, Cronje is sacked as captain after confessing to the Head of the UCBSA Ali Bacher that he had not been "entirely honest". He admits accepting between $10,000 and $15,000 from a London-based bookmaker for "forecasting" results, not match fixing, during the recent one day series. Three other players: Herschelle Gibbs, Nicky Boje and Pieter Strydom are also directly implicated.

The final scene of the movie is heavy with symbolism because Cronje's plane crashes into the Outeniqua mountains northeast of George airport, and the disgraced captain dies, aged just thirty-two.

Author says, the timescales of the match-fixing scandal have been brought forward to the 1999 World Cup when in OTL they occured a year later. Unproven allegations have arisen that both Hansie Cronje and then Pakistan National Coach Bob Woolmer were killed by gambling syndicates.

Steve Payne

Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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