After decades in a Robben Island prison, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is released in 1990.

Mandela wins the election as president of South Africa in 1994.

His first purpose is  to face apartheid.

He wants his security team to be composed of black and white officials. He knows  that at the beginning they will not get on very well, but he is sure that sport will improve their relationship.

The country’s Rugby Union Team (the Springboks) represent prejudice and apartheid. It is composed of white players and the color of its flag is golden and green. During a match, blacks in the stadium shout against their home team and ask to change the players, the flag and the name of the team. But, Mandela doesn’t agree and he believes that the team, which is considered very weak, should be encouraged to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup the year after.

If they succeed, it would be a symbol of  overcoming the problems about apartheid.

For many non-white, especially the radicals, the Springboks symbolize white supremacy and they don’t want to support their national team

Mandela meets the Springboks' captain François Pienaar (Matt Damon) and lets him understand what he wants to be the meaning of the success: if the Springboks can gain the support of white and non-white South Africans, the country will be unified.

Mandela also shares with Pienaar that a poem,  INVICTUS by Ernest Henley, had helped him to "stand when all he wanted to do was lie down".  This way Mandela wants to encourage the capitain of the team.

Pienaar starts a hard training.

Pienar lets the team meet black boys and play a match with them, then he takes them to a visit to the Robben Island Prison.

Even the security team members become friends and the black members who disliked rugby eventually began to enthusiastically support their national team with their white colleagues.

Pienaar lets his players meet black people and visit the prison were Mandela had been kept.

The Springboks win all the matches and makes the final and faces the New Zealand rugby team - called the All Blacks the most successful rugby team in the world, the favourites to win the World Cup and historically the Springboks' greatest rivals. A large home crowd of both whites and non-whites, Pienaar motivates his team. The game goes into extra time, where the Springboks win with a score of 15-12. Mandela and Pienaar meet on the field together to celebrate the victory with a crowd of some 62,000 fans—of all races. Once there, Mandela thanks Pienaar for his service to the nation, but Pienaar tells him that actually the president deserves the real thanks. In one particular scene, some white police officers celebrate by hoisting a young black boy, who was near their car to listen to the radio broadcast of the game, onto their shoulders.