Nelson Mandela, who created one of rugby union's iconic images at the 1995 World Cup, has been hailed for his ability to use sport to unite and inspire.
Mandela's death aged 95 at his home on Thursday sparked a wave of emotional tributes from sportsmen from South Africa and across the world.
Mandela unforgettably presented South Africa's rugby union captain Francois Pienaar with the World Cup in 1995 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg. It was the first major sporting event to be staged in South Africa after the 1994 democratic elections.
The image of Mandela, dressed in a Springbok rugby shirt and cap, handing over the Webb Ellis trophy has become one of the most iconic and evocative images in the history of sport.
South African Rugby Union chief Oregan Hoskins said in a statement: "Madiba was a true icon of inspiration and as much as South Africa owes so much to him, so does rugby.
"Through his extraordinarily vision, he was able to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup as an instrument to help promote nation building just one year after South Africa's historic first democratic election."
Joost van der Westhuizen, who played in the 1995 World Cup final, said on Twitter: "A sad day for our country. Rest in Peace Madiba. Condolences to his family and friends."
South Africa's four-time Major golf winner Ernie Els said: "We have lost one of the iconic leaders of our time. You cannot say anything bad about the man.
"He fought for what he believed in, went to prison for so many years and came out to lead our country up until now.
"Every time I won a tournament he used to call me".
Cricket South Africa said on their official Twitter account: "RIP Tata Mandela. It is because of you that a represented Proteas team can express their talent across the globe #mandela."
South Africa's one-day international captain AB de Villiers saluted the legacy of Mandela, tweeting: "Let us now, more than ever, stick together as a nation! We owe him that much. #madiba you will be missed! #tata #inspiration #leader."
"A sad day for our country. Rest in Peace Madiba" - Joost van der Westhuizen
FIFA president Sepp Blatter paid an emotional tribute to his "dear friend", hailing the 95-year-old's impact on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
He said there would be a minute's silence as a mark of respect ahead of the next round of international matches
Blatter said: "It is in deep mourning that I pay my respects to an extraordinary person, probably one of the greatest humanists of our time and a dear friend of mine: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
"He and I shared an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people in peace and friendship, and to teach basic social and educational values as a school of life.
"When he was honoured and cheered by the crowd at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium on 11 July 2010, it was as a man of the people, a man of their hearts, and it was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced. For him, the World Cup in South Africa truly was 'a dream come true'.
"Nelson Mandela will stay in our hearts forever. The memories of his remarkable fight against oppression, his incredible charisma and his positive values will live on in us and with us."
In Australia, the hosts and England wore black armbands and observed a minute's silence ahead of the second day of the second Ashes Test.
Giles Clarke, the England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, said: "Nelson Mandela was a truly inspirational statesman for many generations of South Africans as well as many peoples around the world. Under his patronage South African sports, including cricket, emerged from the dark shadow of apartheid."