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Arrival in New Zealand

After a smooth flight of five hours across the Tasman, the Springboks arrived in New Zealand on the evening of Tuesday 5 June. Warwick Roger narrates the arrival as follows in his book ‘Old Heroes’:

A huge crowd waited at dusk at Whenuapai as the TEAL Electra pulled up in front of the terminal and . . . an air hostess carrying a six month-old baby appeared at the door. But then – one by one, resplendent in their green Blazers with the gold trimmings and with the gold springbok on the chest, Basie Viviers holding aloft a mounted springbok head that would go to the first team to beat them, de Nysschen carrying a football, a lot of them wearing hats – the Springboks came down the steps from the aircraft and moved among us at last. Now, after all the months of anticipation, we would find out if these were men or gods.  

The Springboks arrive at Auckland’s Whenuapai Airport, dusk, 5 June 1956. The tour was about to begin.  

Inside the airport terminal boys crowded forward to catch a glimpse of their arriving heroes. 

Daan Retief and Wilf Rosenberg with the mounted Springbok head form South-West Africa to be awarded to the first provincial team that beat them on tour. The Springbok head got damaged just before they left for New Zealand from Australia –perhaps an omen of things to come. Here Basie Viviers is assessing the damage to the head in Australia. Luckily they were able to fix it.  

Craven meeting up with an old friend, Tuffy Davis an ex-Welshman who was the baggage manager of the 1937 Springboks in New Zealand. Davis was again the man looking after the Springboks baggage.

It was a battle-worn side that in some cases limped from the plane as these two cartoons so aptly shows. 

Basie van Wyk and Melt Hanekom, both on crutches, had to be helped down the gangway. This pictures shows Basie van Wyk.  

Ian Kirkpatrick’s shoulder was taking a long time to mend, and cases of strain and torn muscle were numerous –particularly among the backs.  

Daan Retief busy with his early morning therapeutic exercises for a muscle injured early on tour. Retief had to do his exercises every morning for the rest of the tour and whether it was the exercises or not he was one of the Springboks who played in most of the New Zealand matches and who remained injury free for the rest of the tour.

In spite of these setbacks spirits were high and the warmth of the welcome soon made the Springboks forget their troubles. Alex Kirkpatrick (president of the New Zealand rugby union) and Fred Allan Captain of the 1949 All Blacks to South Africa where at the airport to greet them. 

Fred Allan the 1949 All Black captain shown here place kicking his rugby boots into the Atlantic Ocean on their way home after losing the series 4-0 against the Springboks. Disillusioned by what happened in South Africa in 1949 (in particular with the exhaustive tour itinerary and the refereeing) Allan at the relatively young age of 29 vowed never to play rugby again and kicked his boots into the Ocean.  

Allan was much criticized for the 1949 failure in particular for this moment where he walked arm-in-arm with Felix du Plessis of Ellispark after losing the second test 12-6. It was the broad smile after losing a test match that infuriorated the nation. His presence at the airport in 1956 reminded the Kiwi's what this tour was all about.

Thirty-five years on, Wilf Rosenberg can still remember the Springboks’ arrival in New Zealand: ‘I can’t tell you the difference we felt compared to how it been in Australia. We thought that we were mad on rugby. It was often said about South Africa in that era that there were only three things people cared about –rugby, National Party and the Dutch Reformed Church, and nobody knew the order. Rugby was absolute religion at home, but we were absolutely shocked to see the tremendous crowd waiting and the unbelievable welcome we received when we landed in New Zealand.’

A 26 km drive to Auckland took the Springboks to their Hotel, where another group of New Zealand rugby fans and officials had assembled to welcome them. That night Aucklanders gathered outside town hall to give the Springboks a welcome the like of which none of them had ever seen before. The mayor of Auckland, Mr J.M. Luxford, headed the reception and then Basie Viviers introduced each of the players in turn to the cheering crowds. 

Captain Basie Viviers leads his team in sang on the Auckland Town Hall stage shortly after their arrival. The Springboks often sang for welcoming crowds as they travelled through New Zealand and McLean remarks that probably the finest moment of the entire tour was when they sang the South African national anthem ‘Die Stem’ in Dunedin just before the first test.  

Not all the players were happy with the constant singing. Years later an aging Tom van Vollenhoven made the following comment towards Warrick Roger when he interviewed him for his book ‘Old Heroes’: “Anytime we went anywhere we had to sing to the crowd. It was Basie Viviers’ idea and it got on my nerves. I was a rugby player, not a singer. I didn’t enjoy that part of the touringlife, standing in a group and singing ‘Sarie Marais’. “

The next morning the team headed off too Hamilton for their first game against Waikato.