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My tension with Gerry over our rugby passion -- Melanie

GERRY Ryan's glamorous partner Melanie Verwoerd revealed that there there's tension between their households -- but only when it comes to rugby.

The former South African MP, who is now the UNICEF Ireland chief, joked that their passion for the game "led to a lot of tension between the two households" when Ireland recently took on South Africa at Croke Park.

But they were both united last night in looking forward to the Irish premiere of Invictus, which shows how the Springboks' World Cup win in 1995 heralded a new chapter in post-Apartheid South Africa.

And Gerry said that struggle of Nelson Mandela has also been very close to his heart, having visited the country several times.



Compromise

"I think it's a very interesting cast. You're looking at Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon playing the two main characters. It must have been a huge challenge for the South Africans because this was a box office decision and we're looking at a very interesting compromise here. I just hope that it works," he explained.

Melanie Verwoerd revealed her Oscar hopes for the film last night's Dublin premiere. And the former MP recalled how she was sitting in Parliament on the memorable day that inspired the movie.

Telling the true story of how Mandela united the post-apartheid nation as they geared up for their 1995 World Cup victory, she said it will always be a moment very close to her heart.

"I was actually sitting in a Parliament session when this happened and it was fantastic because on the day of the (World Cup) final, we suddenly we realised there wasn't a single man there," she told the Herald.

"We were joking that maybe it's time for the women to take over but everybody was at the match. It was such an emotional time in South Africa because this came so close to the transition in 1994. It was such an amazing time."

Leading actors Freeman and Damon were both nominated for Oscars for their performances and she said how it "would be great" if they won.

The former South African Ambassador to Ireland added how she was "enormously proud" of how far the nation has come since then.

"This moment that the movie is about, where Mandela walked onto the field, that was one of those amazing turning points because up until that stage, rugby was still incredibly divided," she continued. "Everyone was still flying the old flags and only singing the old anthem and suddenly Mandela very bravely -- and I know his security people were very worried -- walked out onto the field."

She added: "All of us were crying and I've got my tissues here tonight, my daughter thinks I'm going to cry a lot."

When asked about Saoirse Ronan not receiving a nomination for her role in The Lovely Bones, Gerry said she has plenty of years yet for awards.

"Saoirse is a child and the Academy will honour her in due course.

"She's on the road and she's looking good. Her time will come. She's not drawing the pension yet!" he added.



Glamorous

The radio presenter and Ms Verwoerd cut glamorous figures on the red carpet at the Savoy cinema for last night's inaugural showing of Invictus.

Held in association with Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI), they joined an eclectic mix of familiar faces for the Dublin screening, including rugby star Paul Wallace with his stunning partner Barbara, alongside Malcolm O'Kelly with wife Stephanie.

Other attendees included designer John Rocha with wife Odette, Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte with wife Harriett, alongside Senator Tom Kitt with wife Jacinta.

Also there was writer Victoria Mary Clarke, who explained how her partner, Pogues star Shane MacGowan, was due to come -- but opted to stay in on the couch instead.

INTERVIEW WITH INVICTUS STAR, PAGES 16-17


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