'Tour of the decade'? : New Zealand-South African rugby relations 1985-1986 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University
Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, there existed worldwide pressure upon the South African Government to abolish its controversial policy of apartheid. Sporting boycotts, which excluded South African teams from the Olympic Games and other sporting events were imposed on the Republic so long as they pursued the practice of racial segregation between whites and non-whites. Such boycotts were seen as an effective way of forcing the leaders of South Africa's Afrikaner National Party to repeal its harsh apartheid laws. New Zealand's close sporting relations with South Africa throughout the apartheid period, with rugby union in particular, made the issue of sporting sanctions a sensitive subject for many New Zealanders. Many believed the result of sporting boycotts towards South Africa was the denial of an inherent right to play and watch one of the toughest sporting contests in the world - a rugby test between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South African Springboks. For decades New Zealanders and white South Africans have shared an obsession with the game of rugby union unmatched anywhere else in the world, perhaps with the exception of the fanatical Welsh rugby supporter. However, what is without doubt is the enmity between the two countries when their respective national teams meet on the rugby field. Since the first South African tour of New Zealand in 1921, test series between the All Blacks and Springboks have been tense, tightly fought contests. Until 1997, the home team had never been beaten in a series. It is for this reason that New Zealanders looked upon test matches against the Springboks as the ultimate challenge. Unfortunately, as will be discussed latter in this thesis, the visit by the 1981 Springboks to New Zealand caused severe social disruption and disaffection as the issue of race relations surpassed matters on the rugby field.