The thesis examines the rhetorical dynamics of the political transformation in South Africa by focusing on a key moment – the award ceremony following South Africa’s victory in the 1995 world rugby championship against New Zealand – as captured in a photograph by Ross Setford. The thesis applies the six axioms of visual iconicity proposed by Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites to validate the Setford image (the Rugby Moment) as an important visual icon in the South African political transition and the post-apartheid culture. The thesis examines the image’s rhetorical power by applying the terms of Kenneth Burke’s “dramatistic” Pentad (Act, Scene, Agent, Agency, and Purpose) to analyze the performance – the political theater of the rugby match and award ceremony – secured and sublimated by the image. This performance, and subsequently the image as its continuing trace in political culture, contributed to the transformation of individual and collective identities that constituted the basis for the spiritual transformation (metanoia) that Philippe Joseph Salazar saw as the essential component of the democratic reconstitution of South Africa. The key ratio (in Burke’s terms) central in the image’s drama is Agency-Act: rugby combined with new President Nelson Mandela’s deft symbolic exploitation of the kairotic possibilities offered by South Africa’s victory to deliver a sports encomium: a subgenre of the epideictic that consists of praising the victor – today a common rhetorical practice of political leaders. The encomium effected new foundations for national identification while strengthening Mandela’s claim to the presidency of the new emerging non-racial and democratic South Africa. Finally, since the rhetorical effectivity of the performance and the image, depended fundamentally on the cultural and political meaning of rugby (the Agency) in South African apartheid history and culture, the thesis explores the relationship of sports and politics, particularly, the relationship of rugby to race and power in the South African context and the deployment of that relationship in Mandela’s presidential encomium as embodied in the Rugby Moment image.