Francois Pienaar was born in Vereeniging, South Africa. He attended high school in Witbank a coal mining area in eastern South Africa. There he won an athletic scholarship to the Rand Afrikaans University( now the University of Johannesburg) to play rugby and study law. In 1989 he joined the Transvaal Province rugby team and played with them for a few year where Transvaal won the Super 10, Currie Cup, and Lion Cup under Pienaar’s leadership.
He joined the national rugby team, the Springboks in 1993. At the time South Africa was in a state of unrest. Nelson Mandela saw rugby as a way to unite South Africans behind one cause. Pienaar helped with this cause by leading the Springboks to Victory in the 1995 world cup.
Pienaar won 29 international caps. His achievement in sport on an international level during Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid presidency was instrumental in helping unite South Africa behind a common cause.
In 1998 Francois became a player-coach for the Watford’s Saracens rugby club and Under his leadership the Saracens won the Tetley’s Bitter Cup (Anglo- Welsh Cup). Pienaar has co-authored an autobiography, Rainbow Warrior, with Edward Griffiths and serves as color commentator for ITV Sport during the Rugby World Cup. He is active in Charity work with Sargent Cancer Care for Children and Reach for a Dream Foundation in South Africa.
In November of 2000 Pienaar was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Hertfordshire in Great Britain.
Francois Pienaar and Nelson Mandela are the subject of a book by author John Carlin titles, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation ,that spotlights the 1995 Rugby Union World Cup during post apartheid South Africa. The film rights were bought by American actor Morgan Freeman for the 2009 film Invictus.
Francois Pienaar was a counsellor at One Young World in Johannesburg 2013.