HISTORY IV: 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour (PART II)

22nd July 1981. The Springboks began the journey down the east coast of New Zealand and found their way to Gisborne. The Springboks were to play Poverty Bay (a small bay near Gisborne) for their first game in NZ.

To enter Rugby Park (where the game was being played), spectators had to agree to be searched upon entry. Items such as banners, placards, flags, poles, fireworks, or “any article that might impede the match” were banned.

As the game kicked off, over 300 anti-apartheid protesters marched across the neighbouring golf course to reach Rugby Park. A wire fence separated folk watching the game with barbed wire topping it and a line of police officers attempting to keep the peace.

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HISTORY IV: 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour



22nd July 1981. The Springboks began the journey down the east coast of New Zealand and found their way to Gisborne. The Springboks were to play Poverty Bay (a small bay near Gisborne) for their first game in NZ.

To enter Rugby Park (where the game was being played), spectators had to agree to be searched upon entry. Items such as banners, placards, flags, poles, fireworks, or “any article that might impede the match” were banned. 

As the game kicked off, over 300 anti-apartheid protesters marched across the neighbouring golf course to reach Rugby Park. A wire fence separated folk watching the game with barbed wire topping it and a line of police officers attempting to keep the peace.

The anti-apartheid demonstrators broke through the police barricade and dashed to the fence standing between them and the rugby game. The protesters arrived at the gate and began tearing down the fenceline.

Those watching the game turned to see this and began exchanging blows with their fellow NZers on the other side of the fence. Police tried to maintain order but the protesters continued tearing down the fence. Eventually, the approximately 60 police officers linked arms and pushed the protesters back around 25 metres. 

More, smaller assaults continued, as the protesters attempted to break the police line but were unsuccessful. Ultimately, 13 people are arrested in the chaos and two were taken to the hospital.

The rugby match between the Springboks and Poverty Bay was played, unmolested, and the South Africans won 24 to 6.


25th July 1981. Three days after the Gisborne game, the Springboks travelled to Hamilton to play the Waikato rugby team. However, before the game, over 2,000 anti-apartheid protesters marched to Rugby Park (now Waikato Stadium)

The protesters found their way to the park’s perimeter fence, where they encountered angry Waikato rugby fans inside the grounds. A short standoff ensued before the protesters darted at the wire fence and began tearing it down. The ‘flimsy’ barrier came down relatively effortlessly before approximately 500 protesters raced into the grounds, fighting off furious rugby supporters as they did so.

The protesters smashed their way inside and eventually onto the rugby pitch. In the middle of the pitch, the demonstrators linked arms and created a tightly packed mass. This drama was being broadcast countrywide, and worldwide, including in South Africa.

At this time, three lines of police carrying riot shields and batons marched onto the pitch to confront the protesters. The protesters fought off the police and angry rugby fans, although some were taken and arrested by police. After being confronted with the scale of violence, some of the protesters left voluntarily but approx. 250 protesters remained huddled on the pitch, arms linked.

Earlier that afternoon of the 25th of July 1981, a former World War II Spitfire pilot Pat McQuarrie stole a Cessna 172 (an American four-seat, single-engine, high wing, fixed-wing aircraft) from a Taupo airfield. There was some confusion about Pat’s intentions with the plane but police were concerned he was heading to Hamiton and planned on disrupting the game or perhaps even crashing the plane into the grandstand.

The fear of escalating carnage led to the announcement that the game was cancelled. “WE WANT RUGBY! WE WANT RUGBY!”, the 30,000-strong crowd screamed after the announcement was made. The angry rugby fan’s aggression was taken out on the 200+ protesters still standing in the middle of the field. Bottles, boots, cans, anything throwable, was hurled at the protesters as the police turned from pursuing the demonstrators to protecting them. 

The police attempted to usher the protesters from the pitch as furious fans continued to pour down fire on them. The police eventually got the protesters out of the grounds, although twenty-three people, including one police officer, had to be treated in Waikato Hospital for injuries sustained in the attacks.

Ultimately, over 73 people were arrested and the pilot Pat McQuarrie landed safely at the Morrinsville Horse Track where he was arrested. 

The level of anger from the pro-tour supporters at the game being cancelled is exemplified by the 25th of July 2021 article in The Waikato Times dubbed ‘1981 Springbok Tour 40 years on: How Hamilton became a city of rage’ where they describe the ongoing violence spreading throughout the city; pro-tour folk vs. anti-tour folk. The Halt All Racist Tour headquarters in Hamiton was broken into, and the Waikato University halls of residence windows were smashed in.

The Waikato Times even detailed in the same article receiving a call from someone in South Africa furious they couldn’t watch the game. The person told the newspaper, “I saw about 250 people prevent thousands from watching a game of rugby… Why didn’t they shoot a few? That’s what we would have done.



On the 29th of July 1981, four days after the cancelled Hamilton game, the Springboks travelled to New Plymouth to play the Taranaki rugby team. Graham Mourie, a team member for Taranaki and a captain of the All Blacks, refused to play in the game in solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement.

Around 200 people marched in New Plymouth to protest the Springboks and the tour. However, little drama came from the protesters, and the game took place securely; South Africa once again secured the victory, winning 34 to 9.

After the New Plymouth game ended, a considerable protest of around 2,000 people began to heat up on Molesworth Street (near Parliament buildings) in Wellington. The anti-apartheid protesters were marching toward the South African Consulate. As the protesters got closer to their destination, a string of police appeared wearing riot gear and carrying batons. The following is a first-hand account by Rona Bailey (at the time a woman in her sixties) of what happened next, detailed in the 1983 book By Batons and Barbed Wire authored by Tom Newnham, “The police were moving in on us at the side, flailing out viciously in all directions with their short batons. I caught a baton across the side of my head, not with full force, probably because I had slipped down and was almost on my knees at the time. The girl on my left caught the full force of the batons twice. I fell to the ground and people dragged me out – I can’t really remember after that”.

The Molesworth Street protests were eventually pushed back and disbanded. This marked the first time that police used violence to repel the anti-apartheid protesters.


On the 1st of August 1981, the Springboks travelled to Palmerston North to play the Manawatu side. Over 5,000 anti-apartheid protesters met at Rangitikei Street before marching along Cuba Street, chanting “Remember Steve Biko… Remember Soweto… Remember Nelson Mandela”. 

Steve Biko was a South African anti-apartheid activist who was arrested in 1977 and beaten by South African security officers. The result of the beatings led to extensive head injuries which eventually became a brain haemorrhage. Steve Biko died from these injuries on the 12th of September 1977.

Soweto is a township in the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. In 1976, students at the Soweto High School walked out in protest of the Afrikaans Medium Decree which forced black students to use an even balance of English and the Afrikaans language in school. This was controversial due to Afrikaans (as it is viewed as a derivative of Dutch) being seen as the “language of the oppressor”

On the morning of the 16th of June 1976, somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 black students walked out of their schools in Soweto and attempted to occupy the nearby Orlando Stadium (a stadium predominantly used for soccer games)

Ultimately, 1,500 heavily-armed police officers were deployed to Soweto by the South African government to shut down the protest. The official number of students killed is given at 176, but it is estimated up to 700 may have been killed in the uprising; with over 1,000 wounded.

Back in ‘Palmy’, the protesters continued their march. They were marching down Cuba Street on their way to the Palmerston North Showgrounds (now the Central Energy Trust Arena). 

As they got closer to the showgrounds, the marchers, some of whom were wearing crash helmets and rugby padding due to the increased police brutality, were greeted by a force of 1,000 law enforcement (approx. 20% of the nation’s total police force). The officers donned riot gear and long batons and began pacing forward in formation.

The anti-apartheid protesters felt there was no path forward and retreated for safer grounds. The rugby game went ahead and the Springboks beat the Manawatu team 31 to 19.


On the 5th of August 1981, the Springboks travelled to Wanganui. About 100 protesters stood outside Spriggins Park (where the game was being played) shouting and waving placards. 

The protesters were greatly outnumbered by those attending the game. And apart from a few verbal fisticuffs, the game went ahead with little drama. The Springboks beat the Wanganui rugby side 45 to 9.


The Springboks travelled down the country to the ‘deep south’ to compete against the Southland team. The game was to be played at Rugby Park in Invercargill. Before the match, the NZ Army was called in to erect a barbed wire barricade between the crowds and the pitch to impede the protesters. 

The game was to be played on the 8th of August 1981. Approximately 350 people showed up to march against the match going ahead, however, they were outnumbered by a heavy police presence. When the protesters came within 200m of Rugby Park, they were greeted by two lines of police in riot gear and carrying batons.

Police even had a large presence within Rugby Park, a line of police stood on the sidelines of the pitch (behind the barbed wire barricade) staring into the crowd. The heavy police presence created a new protest chant, “Two-Four-Six-Eight – Racist Tour – Police State”.

The rugby game went ahead unmolested, and the Springboks beat Southland 22 to 6.


On the 11th of August 1981, the Springboks travelled to Dunedin to play the Otago side at Carisbrook (known locally as The House of Pain). 1,200 anti-tour protesters marched along the Southern Motorway which overlooked Carisbrook. As they got closer, the protesters once again were met with rows of police in riot gear. 

One of the officers present was Constable Grindell, who detailed their experience in the 31st of July 2021 edition of the Otago Daily Times, for the article ‘Battling the Boks’. Grindell told the newspaper that there was no violence but, “There was a wee bit of name-calling… It was worse for the Maori policemen. The young Maori cops were getting called traitors. They particularly took a lot of stick.”

After this, the protest split into two camps. One camp of around 600 people entered the city to participate in a silent protest. The other made their way to the Southern Cross Hotel where the Springbok team had been staying, an approximately half an hour journey north to await the Springboks’ return. The hotel had a heavy police presence and the protesters were instructed to disperse but instead, the 300 or so group sat on the footpath, refusing to leave.

24-year-old Francesca Holloway was one of the protesters that day. She detailed her experience to the Otago Daily Times for the same article, “While I was living in Dunedin in the lead-up to [the] events I received telephoned death threats and all sorts of threats being made which were fairly unsettling… Walking away from [the protest] later on, I was assaulted by some people who were absolutely furious that people in Dunedin had dared to express their opinion against the tour. It was a very messy, difficult day. It was very intense, with a lot of people trying to stay calm while dealing with a lot of emotion and adrenaline surges.”

At The House of Pain, the game had begun. A small group of 27 protesters snuck their way into the grounds. They began chanting and blowing whistles but were quickly apprehended by police and arrested.

Nevertheless, the rugby game went ahead unthreatened, and in the closest game yet, the Springboks narrowly beat the Otago side by 17 to 13.



On the 15th of August 1981, the Springboks arrived in Christchurch for the first test match against the All Blacks. Police presence and security were at an all-time high, as tensions had been escalating in Christchurch for the past week. 

A shop that had an anti-apartheid poster on the window was smashed on the 8th of August

On the 11th of August, 126 anti-tour demonstrators were arrested when they protested by blocking an intersection. 

On the 12th of August, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon ‘stoked the flames’ when he compared the anti-tour protesters to Nazis, “when the Fascists broke into the offices of other political parties, ransacked them, threw the papers out the window, burnt them, did their best to stop free speech as [the anti-tour protesters] did at the National Party conference in this country during the weekend before last”.

In the early morning hours of the 14th of August, an explosion of a container of sand was set off outside of Lancaster Park (the stadium the rugby test was to be played in). The same day, the Springboks snuck into the city on an unscheduled Boeing 737 with a heavy police escort.

Back on the 15th of August, a large protest of approximately 6,000 people congregated at Cathedral Square. They began moving toward Lancaster Park. As they got closer they are met with six rows of police in riot gear with batons. 

The police confront the protesters and violence broke out. Ultimately, the police hold the line and 27 people were arrested. 11 people were taken to the hospital including an older man who had his teeth knocked out, as well as two police officers.

Ten minutes before kick-off, 60 protesters make their way into the stadium and onto the pitch, however, only 30 of those make it past the police line and barbed wire. The police push the 30 protesters back, to a large cheer from the crowd. Police said later that the protesters scattered fishhooks and broken glass on the field to stop the game.

The game went ahead largely unabated, and the All Blacks took the victory 14 to 9.


The Springboks were supposed to play the South Canterbury team on the 19th of August 1981 in Timaru but the match was cancelled on the 7th of August, citing “security concerns”

It is likely the Timaru match was cancelled due to the ballooning police budget and to give the officers rest after the first test in Christchurch. Approximately 40% of the entire nation’s police force was being used for ‘Operation Rugby’ and an estimated 15 million dollars (approx. 69 million in 2022 dollars) was spent on policing during the 56-day tour.

It would seem many in Timaru were upset about the cancellation, as The Timaru Herald ran an editorial headline on the 10th of August 1981 reading ‘Why are we being sacrificed?’. The editorial opens with the paragraph, “Everyone in South Canterbury has cause for anger at the cancellation of the Springboks game, irrespective of his or her views for or against the tour. What other reaction is reasonable in response to an unexplained slap in the face?”


On the 20th of August 1981, the Springboks arrived in the city of Nelson to play Nelson Bays in their final match on the South Island. There was controversy immediately as the Mayor of Nelson, Peter Malone, welcomed the Springboks to the city in an official ceremony the next day on the 21st of August. Controversially, the only Mayor of NZ to officially do this on the tour.

This was seen by those against the tour as a pro-apartheid action. However, Mayor Malone told the locals that the welcome was only in the tradition of extending courtesy to all visitors to Nelson. 

On the 22nd of August 1981, a Saturday, Susan Hawthorne, who was one of the coordinators for the Halt All Racist Tours (HART) protest group and who spoke to Stuff.co.nz on the 21st of August 2021 for the article ‘Springbok Tour ‘a watershed moment’ for Nelsonians on both sides of the divide’ by Tim Newman, told the website that the protester’s goal was to show how large a presence the opposition to the tour was, “We were very sincere in our intention to draw attention to the evils of apartheid, that was what it was all about… After [the pitch invasion in] Hamilton there was no chance of anyone getting anywhere near the grounds. They put barbed wire up, huge rubbish skips, they protected the grounds with everything they possibly could, we knew there was never a chance of getting close… We were prepared for clashes, those of us organising and prepared to lead the march were all kitted out in helmets and clothing with newspapers and life jackets underneath – just in case we came into contact with police batons.”

The protesters marched toward Trafalgar Park (where the rugby game was being played) but were met with 772 police officers, a formidable presence. The protesters had a few clashes with police and around 30 people were arrested. But ultimately the violence was minimal and the anti-tour folk ended up occupying and ‘making their stand’ on the church steps to Nelson Cathedral tower on Trafalgar Street.

Inside Trafalgar Park, the game went ahead with little drama and the Springboks ravaged Nelson Bays 83 to 0.


The Springboks travelled to the North Island city of Napier to play the New Zealand Maori team. This was notable because Maori players were unable to play in South Africa in the past due to apartheid.

The Springbok’s time in Napier was relatively uneventful outside of the rugby grounds. There were approximately 400 protesters the day of the game but their activities never escalated to anything truly chaotic. 

On the 25th of August 1981, the drama unfolded on the field as the NZ Maori put up a tremendous effort against the visitors. With only seconds to go in the game, the NZ Maori team were winning by 12 to 9. 

The Springboks had possession and were on the 5-metre line in the offensive zone. A scrum was called and the Springboks retrieved the ball and passed it to their first five-eighth Colin Beck

From about 10-metres out and the centre of the pitch, Beck attempted a drop goal:

Fig 1. Controversial 1981 Springbok dropgoal to tie the NZ Maori

To this day there is debate over whether the drop goal went over the posts or was wide. From the footage we have seen (which you can view on this case page at truecrimenz.com) the ball looks to float wide right, as it seems to disappear briefly behind the right goal post.

Colin Beck himself even weighed in on debate years later in 2010, telling Stuff.co.nz, “Look, it’s a difficult call as to whether it went over. I don’t think the ref was in a very good position and there was a bit of confusion… The ball went relatively high and I have a feeling it went directly over one post, which was very short, so the decision could have gone either way and the ref gave us the benefit of the doubt. Whether it went over or not, I really can’t say, it was too long ago. But it’s in the record books.”

Nevertheless, the Springboks vs. the NZ Maori officially goes down in history as a 12-12 tie. The first non-All Blacks team to not be defeated by the South Africans during the tour.



On the 29th of August 1981, the Springboks made their way to the capital, Wellington, for the 2nd test match against the All Blacks in Athletic Park in the suburb of Newtown

The protests in the capital were the biggest the police had encountered yet, with a count of somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 demonstrators. With such immense numbers, the protester’s tactics led by Citizens Opposed to the Springbok Tour (COST) evolved and became more tactical. 

The protesters were divided into seven groups of 1,000+ people each; Pink, Yellow, Orange, White, Blue, Green and Brown squads. Each squad had their own tasks to disrupt the game and stretch police resources thin.

Some squads were assigned to block motorways so folk couldn’t drive in to see the game, some were assigned to block streets so pedestrians couldn’t make their way to Athletic Park and so forth.

A huge conflict occurred on Riddiford Street in Newtown as one of the squads was sitting at an intersection blocking traffic. Violence broke out between the rugby supporters and the protesters which resulted in a few demonstrators being pushed through a plate-glass window.

More violence unfolded on Riddiford Street when police got involved. According to newspaper articles from the time, police began pulling protesters from their fold, hitting them with batons, stomping on their hands and legs and kicking at least one person in the head.

Near Athletic Park, in a scene described as looking like Native Americans about to do battle in a western movie, 2,000 demonstrators came over the hill overlooking Athletic Park carrying banners and signs. They carried on marching down the hill to MacAlister Park (the grounds adjacent to Athletic Park).

500 police behind barbed wire fences met them, but the protesters were undeterred, they continued forward. This encounter was written about by the Dominion newspaper which we sourced from the book By Batons and Barbed Wire by Tom Newnham, “[The protesters] rushed to the barbed wire stretching the length of MacAlister Park across the road from where the Springboks were playing the All Blacks. Using grappling irons and rope, the protesters quickly demolished the army’s handiwork section by section. Only when they attacked a second line of wire did they have to dodge the police baton blows. But the barbed wire impeded police efforts to ward them off”.

However, the police held their ground and the protesters did not get any closer to the park. The game concluded with the All Blacks losing 24 to 12, and the demonstrators eventually dispersed.


In early September the Springboks arrived in Rotorua by plane. They were greeted with large painted letters on the runway that read, “BOKS GO HOME”.

On the 2nd of September 1981, the Springboks played the Bay of Plenty team. There were pockets of protests but they were halted by barbed wire fences and police on the adjacent practice field, and the demonstrations didn’t escalate to anything extreme.

The game was played and the Springboks won narrowly by 29 to 24.


Next, the Springboks travelled to the ‘big smoke’ of Auckland

On the 5th of September, the South Africans played the Auckland provincial team at the famous Eden Park. Approximately 7,000 protesters met at Fowlds Park in the suburb of Mount Albert, 1.3km west of Eden Park. 

The demonstrators planned to surround the stadium and spread the police presence thin so they could break through into the stadium. This was difficult, however, as Operation Rugby had shipped in approximately 2,000 police officers to Auckland for the final leg of the tour. 

As the protesters set off for the stadium they divided up into groups (or squads) of approx. 2,000 people. All squads were met with a now-familiar sight of riot police wielding batons. 

There were many scuffles with police and many on the front lines got hit with swinging batons but the protesters didn’t get inside the stadium.

Lynne Tuxford, from the Auckland Star newspaper, who took part in the demonstrations wrote, “There has been much talk about violent protesting and complaints about protesters looking for trouble. The important point has been forgotten. There were enough of us on Saturday to totally overrun the police – batons and all – if we’d believed in violence. We didn’t.”

The match was played, and Auckland lost to the Springboks 39 to 12.


The Springboks made their way to Whangarei for their final provincial game against North Auckland on the 8th of September.

Protests were relatively small and undramatic when compared to the larger centres like Auckland or Wellington, nonetheless, approximately 400 people showed up to demonstrate their displeasure at the game going ahead.

Protesters met with police lines, but little to no violence occurred and the game was played unmolested. Springboks took the victory over North Auckland 19 to 10.

The long tour was finally coming to an end. The final test match was next on the itinerary for the South African team, and fittingly, the climactic clash became perhaps the most dramatic game of ‘ruggas’ played on NZ soil.


12th of September 1981. The third anniversary of Steve Biko’s death and also the day of the final test match between the South African Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks. The match was to be played at Eden Park in Auckland.

Tension within the city was at a fever pitch, even in the days leading up to the game. Police had been doing door-to-door checks at the housing around Eden Park to find out whether the household was pro-tour or anti-tour. This was presumably to investigate whether there were anti-tour ‘strongholds’ near the stadium that were going to create issues on game day. Others saw it as an invasion of privacy and as police abusing their authority.

With both the Springboks and the All Blacks both having taken one victory each in this series. The excitement for pro-tour fans within New Zealand was also sky-high. For those that cared about international rugby, this was a fitting climax to a long tour.

For the anti-tour folk, this was the biggest stage, with the most eyeballs, so the best opportunity to show NZ, and the world, what they believed in and attempt to influence change on apartheid.

Approximately 6,000 protesters met up before the match at Fowlds Park. The demonstrators split off into multiple squads. The squads immediately began blocking traffic and making it difficult for the rugby fans to get to the stadium.

At around 2 pm, half an hour before kick-off, a small Cessna aircraft began flying low over the grounds. With about 10 minutes before kick-off, the plane began dropping anti-tour pamphlets onto the field; then dropping flour bombs (paper bags filled with flour) onto the grounds.

As the match kicked off, and the battle unfolded on the field, battles were already being fought outside the stadium. 

On Marlborough Street, protesters clashed with police and found themselves trapped as riot police appeared on their flanks and began hitting them with batons. Some of the protesters were hurt so badly in these conflicts that they required intensive care and long-term hospitalisation.

On Dominion Road, in one of the more infamous incidents of the day, a large group of protesters were joined by eight people dressed up in fancy dress. Five were dressed like clowns, two like rabbits and one as a bumblebee. One of the clowns spoke anonymously to 1 News for the article ‘Clown bashed by police in 1981 Springbok tour wants answers’ published on the 7th of August 2021.

The clown told 1 News that they were there to defuse tension on the last day of the tour. Then riot police appeared from around the corner, and marched onto Dominion Road. The group huddled near a hedge but the police began beating them, nonetheless, “The assault on two of them was vicious. I just got batoned a couple of times and ran off but the 60kg bumblebee – she was in leotard and stockings – she got hit around the neck. It was pretty terrible and the other clown had his ear split and stitched up”. The clowns that were beaten were eventually awarded compensation of $10,000 each when the court found the officers used unlawful force.

On Onslow Road, bricks and batons were thrown back and forth between demonstrators and police, resulting in some hospitalisations.

In Dunedin, 20 anti-tour demonstrators broke a window to the Mt Cargill television transmission building and turned off every switch, killing the feed to all Dunedin and coastal Otago viewers. The feed was out for approximately 40 minutes.

Back inside the stadium, the tension was still high as the plane continued to fly back and forth dropping flour bombs. Suddenly, a group of protesters burst onto the pitch and, from behind the barbed wire fence, begin throwing smoke bombs and flares onto the field. They were quickly pounced on and subdued by police, arrested and escorted out of the stadium. The game was delayed two minutes to reset from the chaos.

The game continued, a large banner is dropped from the plane held with eight balloons with the word BIKO on it. 

Just after the second half kicked off, more flour bombs are dropped from the plane, one struck All Blacks prop Gary Knight in the head and knocked him to the ground.

Fig 2. Classic Encounter – 1981 Flour Bomb Test

Eventually, after passing over the stadium 58 times and dropping 60 flour bombs, the plane landed at the North Shore Airfield. The two men in the plane were Marx Jones (the pilot) and Grant Cole; they were both arrested.

Ultimately, even with all the chaos, violence, security concerns and interruptions, the game was concluded. And the All Blacks took the victory, narrowly, 25 to 22. Winning the series.

The Springboks boarded a plane the next day, the 13th of September 1981, to visit the United States of America for a three-game tour and more trouble including a match played behind closed doors, being guarded by heavily-armed FBI officers, and a pipe bomb being detonated outside a rugby union base (they did win every game, however). Before returning to South Africa in late September.



In the aftermath of the 1981 Springbok tour, Robert Muldoon and the National Party were re-elected and NZ went on to dominate in rugby throughout the 1980s, culminating in winning the 1987 Rugby World Cup.

For South Africa, the rest of the 1980s was rather dramatic, their National Party president had a stroke and eventually resigned. He was replaced by his deputy Frederik Willem de Klerk. De Klerk, in a surprise move for the conservative government, began dismantling apartheid. He lifted bans on Black liberation parties, restored freedom of the press and began releasing political prisoners. Including Nelson Mandela, who was released on the 11th of February 1990, after 27 years in prison.

In 1994, apartheid was officially repelled and Nelson Mandela was elected the first president of a post-apartheid South Africa, with Frederik Willem de Klerk as his deputy president. The 46-year era of apartheid was finally over.


Many that were protesting during the time of the 1981 Springbok Tour speak about the shocking brutality they saw on behalf of the police. However, Red Squad leader and police officer Ross Meurant told the New Zealand Herald on the 9th of July 2011 for the article ‘The rugby tour that split us into two nations’ that the police had no choice but to become more drastic to defend civil order, “To this day I still defend that police action. We had no choice. We were the meat in the sandwich – fail and the institutions of the State would have been emasculated by a competing brute force.”

What’s apparent is that when NZ is split into two on such divisive topics, the fallout can become intense and often violent, as we have seen recently in the 2022 Wellington Anti-Vaccine Mandate demonstrator’s occupation of parliament grounds. 

Liz Roberts who lived near Athletic Park where the second test match was played had some interesting thoughts on the topic. In an interview, conducted with the Wellington Museum, Liz told the reporter that she saw demonstrators being pushed and hit with batons. Liz concluded her thoughts on that day with, “It’s a day that, you know, this really quiet neighbourhood turned into a place where people were being pummelled. For the sake of a rugby game. Doesn’t make sense really does it?




Gisborne Herald, ‘BATTLE AT THE PARK’, https://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/frontpage-featured/20210721/frightening-intensity/
Stuff.co.nz, 1981 Springbok Tour 40 years on: How Hamilton became a city of rage, https://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/125809262/1981-springbok-tour-40-years-on-how-hamilton-became-a-city-of-rage
NZ History, Film: game cancelled in Hamilton, 1981 Springbok tour, https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/video/game-cancelled-in-hamilton
NZ History, Film: Gisborne game, 1981 Springbok tour, https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/video/gisborne-game-springbok-tour

By Batons and Barbed Wire, Tom Newnham, Graphic Publications Ltd., 1983


Stuff.co.nz, All eyes on Palmerston North as 1981 Springbok tour hung in balance, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/300368501/all-eyes-on-palmerston-north-as-1981-springbok-tour-hung-in-balance
Wikipedia, Soweto uprising, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soweto_uprising
Wikipedia, Steve Biko, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Biko
NZ Herald, Memories of fateful Springboks match, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/whanganui-chronicle/news/memories-of-fateful-springboks-match/7B4HQ4G57EB4BLBPXVSS4VIKYY/
Stuff.co.nz, ‘Wound up bunch of people in Invercargill’: Hart leader recalls ’81 Springbok tour, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/125878719/wound-up-bunch-of-people-in-invercargill-hart-leader-recalls-81-springbok-tour
Otago Daily Times, Battling the Boks, https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/battling-boks

By Batons and Barbed Wire, Tom Newnham, Graphic Publications Ltd., 1983


Stuff.co.nz, The Springbok Tour, 1981: Ten days that shook Christchurch, https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/126011335/the-springbok-tour-1981-ten-days-that-shook-christchurch
Stuff.co.nz, 1981 Springbok tour: Timaru felt they had been sacrificed, https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/international/125740384/1981-springbok-tour-timaru-felt-they-had-been-sacrificed
Stuff.co.nz, Springbok Tour ‘a watershed moment’ for Nelsonians on both sides of the divide, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/126109153/springbok-tour-a-watershed-moment-for-nelsonians-on-both-sides-of-the-divide
NZ Herald, THAT Napier game recalled, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/hawkes-bay-today/news/that-napier-game-recalled/SO2GCMWWFABDTZTGUJPV4CPSTA/
Sport 24, WATCH | Springbok Colin Beck’s controversial drop goal on 1981 NZ tour, https://www.news24.com/sport/Rugby/Springboks/watch-springbok-colin-becks-controversial-drop-goal-on-1981-tour-20200331
Stuff.co.nz, Bill Bush wonders if 1981 referee pressured, http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/3583759/Bill-Bush-wonders-if-1981-referee-pressured

By Batons and Barbed Wire, Tom Newnham, Graphic Publications Ltd., 1983

Youtube, Rusty Cruiser, Controversial 1981 Springbok dropgoal to tie the NZ Maori, https://youtu.be/aFCEsKUh5F0


Stuff.co.nz, Thursday throwback: 1981 Springbok tour, https://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/life-style/8251412/Thursday-throwback-1981-Springbok-tour
Wikipedia, 1981 South Africa rugby union tour of New Zealand and the United States, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1981_South_Africa_rugby_union_tour_of_New_Zealand_and_the_United_States

By Batons and Barbed Wire, Tom Newnham, Graphic Publications Ltd., 1983


1 News, Clown bashed by police in 1981 Springbok tour wants answers, https://www.1news.co.nz/2021/08/07/clown-bashed-by-police-in-1981-springbok-tour-wants-answers/
Stuff.co.nz, 1981 Springbok Tour: ‘Brutal’ violence of Auckland riots caught on camera, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/126512200/1981-springbok-tour-brutal-violence-of-auckland-riots-caught-on-camera
Otago Daily Times, Recalling the day rugby coverage was cut, https://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/whats-with-that/recalling-day-rugby-coverage-was-cut

By Batons and Barbed Wire, Tom Newnham, Graphic Publications Ltd., 1983

Youtube, RDGraeme, Classic Encounter – 1981 Flour Bomb Test, https://youtu.be/rkZMIySG75c


Wikipedia, Apartheid, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apartheid
Wikipedia, 1981 South Africa rugby union tour of New Zealand and the United States, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1981_South_Africa_rugby_union_tour_of_New_Zealand_and_the_United_States
Thought Co., The End of South African Apartheid, https://www.thoughtco.com/when-did-apartheid-end-43456
Museums Wellington, Remembering the 81′ Springbok Tour, https://www.museumswellington.org.nz/springbok-tour-81
NZ Herald, There Will Be Blood, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/indepth/news/there-will-be-blood/

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