The number plates of the cars that Nelson Mandela is driven around in, as well as Francois Pienaar's car have the number plate that ends GP, for Gauteng Province, which is where Ellis Park is situated. These number plates were only introduced on 1 January 1997.
During the scene where the fans are entering Ellis Park Stadium for the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final, advertising banners can be seen in the distance that read "Coca-Cola Park", which did not become the stadium's name until 2008.
In the beginning of the film when Nelson Mandela is released, a group of marchers can be seen waving the current South African flag. This flag only came into existence in 1994 - they would have been waving the black, yellow and green flag of the African National Congress in 1990.
Shortly after you see a group of maids preparing Nelson Mandela's breakfast table, and Mandela having a shave, you briefly see a Metrorail train in the gray and yellow colors. In the early '90s these trains would have been maroon with silver roofs.
In the movie the Springboks were shown teaching children how to do line outs by lifting a player high to receive the ball. In 1995 the interpretation of that rule only allowed "supporting" the player. Modern rugby sees big lifts as portrayed in the film, but in 1995 you would only see smaller jumps.
When Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) leaves the bus on the beginning of their tour of South Africa in 1994, a closeup on his feet shows the triple stripe logo of Adidas on his shoes. That logo was used beginning 1997, and before that the logo was the old Trefoil.
In the first match scene against England, set in 1992, many pitch-side hoardings advertise Vodacom. Vodacom is a leading South African cell phone company, and sponsors several of the top rugby sides. But the company wasn't founded until 1993 and only started providing services in 1994. And as mobile telephony was a rare luxury service then, it's unlikely their hoardings would have been as common as the movie shows them in the 1995 tournament either.
Several characters refer to the governing body for rugby in South Africa as "SA Rugby". That isn't completely fictitious: "SA Rugby" is a brand of the South African Rugby Union (SARU), it appears on Springbok jerseys these days, and SARU's official website is www.sarugby.co.za. But it dates back only to 2001, when SARU established a company of the same name to manage its commercial interests.
The rugby balls used in the Springboks matches are the current generic Gilbert Barbarian match balls with dark blue and green oval trims. The actual match balls used in 1995 World Cup were in fact grass green and sky blue and they all had a Rugby World Cup logo and the year 1995 printed on them. Also the kicking tee used by the All Blacks goal kicker in the film was a Gilbert Blue Tee; the actual kicking tee used by the player Andrew Mehrtens in the 1995 final was a yellow Simpkin Kicking Tee.
The ball shown in their first game against England is a modern Mitre match ball. While Mitre did supply the match ball for their real first game since the apartheid ban against the Springboks, the logo and design is clearly a modern, mid-2000's design, including their modern logo.
Near the end of the movie, Francois Pienaar mentions Nelson Mandela's "30 years in that cell," referencing his visit to Mandela's cell on Robben Island. In fact, Mandela spent about 17.5 of his 27 years of imprisonment in the cell on Robben Island. He was imprisoned in Johannesburg and then Pretoria for about a year and a half during his trial, then sent to Robben Island for 17.5 years. He was moved to Pollsmoor Prison for 6 years, then to Victor Verster Prison for 2 years until his release. When Mandela's earlier arrests and imprisonments are factored in, he did spend about 30 years in prison, just not at Robben Island. (See Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.)
When we hear the voice of Morgan Freeman reciting Invictus while Matt Damon is in the Robben Island cell, a word of the poem is changed. The line reads, "Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody but unbowed." The voice of Freeman uses the word "fate" instead of "chance." The meaning is the same, but it breaks the rhyme scheme.
Just after he stops walking because the security man asks about his family, (c. 39:00), there is the front of the newspaper, with the headline reading "The Rand has has fallen to its lowest levels" The word "has" is repeated.
When Nelson Mandela's head bodyguard is passing out the president's schedule to the other bodyguards, he first calls it the "SHEDule" using the British pronunciation, but a few moments later he calls it the "SKEDule" using the American pronunciation.
When Jason Tshabalala is in Nelson Mandela's office, asking about the SAS men assigned to his team, the scene is shot from two angles and shifts between them quickly. Brenda Mazibuko's head rests on her hand in one shot, but the next shot her hand rests on the table.
In the scene where Nelson Mandela arrives on the team's field by helicopter, he greets the team and Francois Pienaar folds his arms while Mandela talks. The camera angle switches from the front of Mandela to the back, and Francois's hands are suddenly on his hips. The camera switches again to the front, and to the back again, while the position of his arms alternates.
When Nelson Mandela leaves the conference room in the middle of a presentation by Taiwan officials, the sign outside the room is written in simplified Chinese characters. However, these are not generally used in Taiwan where the more complex traditional characters are preferred, and the simplified writing is considered a Communist perversion of Chinese culture.
In the scene with the Springbok team jogging just before the final, they are jogging through the streets of Cape Town around the Newlands Rugby Stadium. They would have been jogging at this point in the story in Johannesburg which is where the final took place (at Ellis Park Stadium).
Before the incident where the aircraft flies low over the stadium, the first officer says, "we are on final approach". The captain then takes control and immediately flies the plane low over Ellis Park (where the final takes place) in a roughly northerly direction, as indicated by the position of Ponté Tower out of the cockpit window. Yet Johannesburg Airport is a good distance east of Ellis Park and while there is a northerly approach to land there, a plane which flew a final approach beginning near Ellis Park would be about 9 miles off course.
In the scene where the Springboks are drinking beer in the change-rooms after losing a match the Natal Rugby Union logo is seen in the change room. The Springboks never played at "Kings Park Stadium" (where the Natal Rugby Union is located) in 1994. In addition, it is unlikely that they would be drinking anything other than Lion Lager, their official sponsor (as on their rugby jerseys).
We see a scene Mandela is meeting at Taiwan and he left meeting room when hearing news of the games. However, the name of the meeting show "Orchid room" in Simplified Chinese that is not used in Taiwan.
Johan de Villiers is shown as the TV commentator who first bad-mouths the Boks and then praises the Springboks, after the final whistle, asks the question of Pienaar: "What did it feel like to have 62,000 fans supporting you in the stadium?" and receives the answer: "We didn't have 62,000 fans behind us, we had 43 million South Africans." It was in fact a SABC reporter called David van der Sandt.
Chester Williams, the coloured Springbok winger, was injured prior to the World Cup and was not an original member of the squad. When South Africa plays Australia in the opening test, he is seen sitting in the stands wearing a Springbok suit. That day, given that he was an employee of the Western Province Rugby Union, owner of the stadium where the game was played, he was involved in the match operations. He actually assisted in the media tribune ushering journalists to their seats.
Whilst South Africa Airways did use Chester Williams as a promotional ambassador, his face was never on the side of a plane such as the Airbus A340 seen on the movie. He did feature in caps, in which his eyes were in the front of caps distributed throughout the country. Air New Zealand, for the next World Cup in 1999, painted a 747 in black and had a All Black front-row painted on the body of the plane.
The first game of rugby the Springboks play after they are readmitted to the world stage post-apartheid is depicted as being against England. In fact it was the NZ All Blacks the Springboks played on 15/08/1992.
Unlike New Zealand (the "All Blacks"), the England team does not have a nickname. However, in the credits, England is listed as the "England Rose's" with an apostrophe, when the performers for each rugby team are listed. England is not generally known as such, although they have a red rose as their logo.
At the kick off of the final part of extra time the ball does not travel to the opponents 10mtr line. Whilst this is acceptable if an opponent plays the ball first, it is almost never seen in international rugby.
In the World Cup, after the Australia match, the Springboks' next two matches are shown to be against Western Samoa and France. In fact, these were the quarter-final and semi-final matches; the Springboks played Romania and Canada after Australia in the pool stage. (This may have been deliberate on the part of the filmmakers; the punch-up at the end of the Canada match would not have been in the spirit of the film).
In the final when the clock reaches 10 minutes in the second half of extra time, the referee blows his whistle to signal the end of the match even though the ball is still in play. In rugby, the match does not end until the ball is dead. South Africa would have had to win the scrum then kick the ball to touch (out of bounds). At that point, the referee would blow his whistle. If the losing team is in control of the ball, play continues until the ball is dead.
The England fans can be seen waving Union Jacks, even though the different countries of the United Kingdom play separately (Scotland and Wales, which also play as single nations and were both in the 1995 Rugby World Cup). This does actually happen frequently at English Matches, but Scottish and Welsh fans do not wave the Union Jack when supporting their own teams.
When the South Africa Rugby Squad go to interact and play rugby with the children from the squatter settlements, a member of the squad asks a group of children who knows the rules of rugby. In Rugby Union they are called them 'laws' and an international player would know that. But in trying to explain the game to a group of children who were unfamiliar with rugby (and possibly hostile to white players teaching them) it would be quite reasonable to use the more everyday term 'rules'.
The Samoan team is referred to as "Western Samoa", the name they were commonly referred to in the 1990s and early. It is now known as "Samoa", or sometimes as "Manu Samoa". However Manu Samoa tends to be used by the Samoans themselves.
The referee signalled a knock on at one point in the final, but this occurred during a scrum. It isn't possible to have a knock-on in a scrum as it is illegal to handle the ball in a scrum unless the ball has crossed the goal line. However, it is perfectly possible and quite common for the scrum half or one of the back row players to knock the ball on when attempting to retrieve it from the scrum.
Extra time in the rugby final is 20 minutes. Francois Pienaar asks how long to go and is told "7 minutes" (i.e. 13 minutes done) and a little later Nelson Mandela is told "5 minutes" (i.e. 15 minutes done) but in between there is a shot of the video scoreboard reading "11 minutes". Actually overtime is divided in two halves of 10 minutes. In actual footage of the game you can see that it ends at 11 minutes on the 2nd half of overtime and since the clock moves forward in rugby there isn't a continuity mistake here.
In the scene where Nelson Mandela looks at his clock radio, it reads 4:00 and it is supposed to be 4 AM in the morning. However, the red dot indicating AM or PM is lit on the bottom, which indicates PM.
In the closeups of President Nelson Mandela during the final game, you can see the reflection of the empty grandstands (red) in his sunglasses, rather than the green and yellow tinged full stands that are shown in the crowd shots.
As Francois Pienaar speaks to his teammates in a huddle during the World Cup final, empty stadium seats can be seen behind the players in close-up shots, despite it being previously established that the game had completely sold out.
The goof items below may give away important plot points.
As the airplane flies over the stadium before the Finals match, there is clearly nothing written on the fuselage. The fuselage is clearly seen two more times with nothing written on it. In the next shot, the phrase "Good Luck Bokke" suddenly appears on one wing, the fuselage, then the other wing.
Just after the final when the crowds are celebrating and Nelson Mandela is being driven away from the stadium through the crowded streets he would have been in Johannesburg of course. However, a street sign for "LOOP STREET" is clearly visible as the street his car turns into. Loop Street is one of the major streets in the center of Cape Town, not in Johannesburg.
During the Rugby World Cup Final, security men are shocked to see what appears to be a low-flying jumbo jet, only to see it is harmless. In reality, all security staff were briefed about the jet maneuvers planned for the day.