“Barbed-Wire Boks” : the long shadow of the 1981 Springbok Tour of New Zealand and the United States of America

Potgieter, Sebastian Johann Shore (2017-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In 1981, during the height of apartheid, the South African national rugby team, the Springboks, toured to New Zealand and the United States of America. In South Africa, the tour was expected to reopen the doors to international competition for the Springboks after an anti-apartheid sporting boycott had forced the sport into relative isolation during the 1970s. In the face of much international condemnation, the Springboks toured to New Zealand and the USA in 1981 where they encountered large and often violent demonstrations as those who opposed the tour attempted to scuttle it. For the duration of the tour, New Zealand was plunged into a divisive state of chaos as police and protestors clashed outside heavily fortified rugby stadiums. In South Africa, those bleary-eyed rugby fans who braved the early morning hours to watch the historic live broadcasts of the matches were greeted with extraordinary scenes: rugby fields being combed for glass shards, fishhooks, and nails scattered by anti-tour protestors; a pitch invasion at Hamilton forcing the cancellation of the Springboks’ match against Waikato; and the infamous Auckland test, dubbed the ‘flour-bomb’ test. While the tour matter polarised New Zealanders, there were only minor disruptions during the USA leg of the tour as rugby was still a relatively unknown sport to most Americans. Although the tour events were a rude awakening to many white South Africans on the hostilities abroad towards the apartheid regime, the country’s racist policies remained unyielding. However, the tour had repercussions for South African rugby and reflected how desperate establishment rugby had become to stave off total isolation. While the tour is frequently mentioned in work on the sporting boycott era, it is rarely assigned the significance it deserves. Using hitherto untapped archival material this thesis concerns an in depth discussion on the 1981 tour, what it revealed about South African rugby at the time, and in particular how the tour had a large hand in bringing about South African rugby’s total isolation in the 1980s.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In 1981, tydens die hoogtepunt van apartheid, het die Suid-Afrikaanse nasionale rugby span, die Springbokke, getoer na Nieu-Seeland en die Verenigde State van Amerika toe. In Suid-Afrika was dit verwag dat die toer die deur vir Springbok-rugby sou oopmaak nadat ʼn anti-apartheid sport boikot die spel in relatiewe isolasie in gedwing het tydens die 1970’s. In diegesig van baie internasionale veroordeling het die Springbokke in 1981 getoer na Nieu-Seeland en die VSA en is gevolglike deur groot en dikwels gewelddadige optogte teen die toer gesteur. Nieu-Seeland is vir die duur van die toer in chaos in gedompel terwyl polisie en betogers buite versterkte rugbystadions gebots het. Suid-Afrikaners wat die vroeë oggendure getrotseer het om die historiese lewendige uitsendings van wedstryde te kyk is deur buitengewone beelde gegroete: rugbyvelde wat ondersoek word vir glas skerwe, vishoeke, en spykers gestrooi deur anti-toer betogers; die afstel van die Springbokke se wedstryd teen Waikato in Hamilton as gevolg van betogers wat die veld beset het; en die Auckland toets, ook bekend as die ‘meel-bom toets’. Terwyl Nieu-Seelanders diep verdeel was oor die toer was daar aansienlik minder ontwrigtinge tydens die VSA deel van die toer aangesien rugby nog relatief onbekend was vir Amerikaners. Al was die toer ‘n skok vir baie wit Suid-Afrikaners oor die vyandelikhede in die buiteland teenoor die apartheidsregering, het die land se rasistiese beleide onwrikbaar gebly. Die toer het, alhoewel, gevolge gehad vir Suid-Afrikaanse rugby en het weerspieël hoe desperaat die land se rugby geword het om totale isolasie te voorkóm. Die toer word dikwels na verwys in werke oor die sportboikot era maar word selde met die beduidende belang toegeken wat dit verdien. Deur gebruik te maak van argiefmateriaal sal hierdie tesis ‘n indiepte bespreeking voer oor die 1981 toer, wat dit geopenbaar het oor Suid-Afrikaanse rugby op daardie stadium, en in besonder hoe die toer bygedra het tot die rugby isolasie van Suid-Afrika tydens die 1980’s.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/101214
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