An incredible social event in New Zealand in which the public faced police in riot gear to protest the apartheid system in South Africa the occasion was a rugby tour by the Springbok's (South Africa's national rugby team) of New Zealand.

A full Springbok tour is in sporting terms what the superbowl final is in America---the high point for the year in the nation sport.

The Prime Minister Robert Muldoon (a tour supporter) that he'd use all necessary force to get the games played, sending in police in full riot gear, especially after the Hamilton match was called off after a light plane buzzed the field. The biggest conflict was in Wellington, where there was evidence that police officers took off identification badges before baton charges against protesters wearing motorcycle helmets.

I was too young to be actively involved, but they closed the schools because all the teachers were out marching.

The events of the tour effectively placed race relations on the agenda of public discussion in New Zealand. For the first time since Parihaka issues were talked about. This lead in recent years to a much different public policy and slowly to changes in public practice.


Controversial rugby tours between South Africa and New Zealand polarized the country into two groups. One believed that politics should be kept out of sport, the other group believed sporting contacts with SA showed NZ's support of Apartheid.

South Africa requested that no Maoris be included in the All Black tour of 1960. The Rugby Union compiled which resulted in much ill-feeling back home. Maoris were sent in 1964 and SA said nothing. SA officially "welcomed" Maoris on the 1970 tour. To some the All Black-Springbok clashes were a mark of national character. All white All Black teams toured SA in 1928 and 1949.

A 'No Maoris, No Tour' movement started up in the 1960s. The proposed 1967 tour to SA was cancelled by the Rugby Union. Pm Norm Kirk tried to side-step the issue in 1973 but finally stepped in and cancelled that year's proposed tour. Under a Nat govt the next pm, Rob Muldoon, sanctioned the 1976 tour. In retaliation 29 Black African countries boycotted the Montreal Olympics because of NZ's participation. Under pressure Muldoon signed the Gleneagles Agreement to discourage sporting contact with SA but then ignored it.

In 1981 Muldoon stated that nothing, not even death would stop the Springbok tour of NZ. Numerous clashes occurred between protesters, supporters and the police. One game was cancelled in Hamilton when a light plane buzzed the match there. The police Red & Blue riot squads inflicted serious injuries to many protesters. There was no more official rugby contact with SA until after apartheid was officially abolished c1993. Although much of the 1981 tour news reporting was censored in SA according to a recent TV documentary sufficient reports got though about the widespread and bloody protests in NZ to radically change racially-selected rugby in SA, and leading to the eventual collapse of apartheid.

Invincible full back George Nepia was an outspoken critic of the tours during the 1960s. The Howard Morrison Quartet's recording of "My Old Man's an All Black" was a gentle poke at the 1960 tour;

Fee fee fie fie fo fo fum
Hey Howard, there's no Horis in that scrum!
Horis = Mäoris

It sold over 60,000 copies. Groups like Halt All Racist Tours and Citizen Action for Racial Equality were in the fore-front of many of the street marches and protests. The feature film 'Patu' (1984, directed by Merata Mita) is about the 1981 tour. In 1986 "a rebel rugby team of All Blacks, calling themselves the Cavaliers, after lies and deceit, sneak out of New Zealand and are defeated 3-1 in a series against the Springboks during a tour of South Africa." (..., BEZ. NZE)

There is some confusion between the 1980 and 1981 tour---they're the same tour, but some of the key events were in 1980 and some in 1981 sources:

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