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The 1970 All Black tour to South Africa

A while ago I came upon a gem of a book in a second hand bookstore here in NZ. The book is about the 1970 All Black tour to South Africa entitled "Rugby and be Dammed" written by G.R. David. What made the book so unique and interesting, for me, is the fact that it provides a New Zealand perspective on the whole tour and subsequently contains information that I as a South African have not heard or read before. David was a sport journalist for the "Evening Post" a newspaper in NZ and was the official New Zealand journalist on the tour. A brief description of each game are provided in the book, including the preparation for the various matches as well as quite insigtfull after match perceptions by the touring party.

Since discovering and reading this book I have bought three more books on the 1970 rugby tour, written by New Zealand journalists and sport writers.

My plan is to post on a weekly basis some interesting pieces on the respective tour matches here on my blog, combining information from at least four sources. This will coincide with posts on the 1965 tour. In 1970 I was 8 years old and my hope is that some of the older generation rugby supporters in South Africa -who attended or listened to these matches- will pitch in and share their memories with us.

Gabriel David begins his book with the following statement:

How can you evaluate a rugby tour that was as much a failure as it was certainly a success? The All Blacks have rewritten the record books in South Africa but for one and that was winning the series. How can you make a fair and honest appraisal and reach a conclusion about a side that won every provincial match yet still managed to lose the series 1-3.

He stresses the fact that no ambiguity should exist that NZ has sent their best 30 players on tour. The team was without doubt the best (of all possible New Zealand rugby sides) which toured South Africa up to that that stage. This was a side that has been unbeaten for 17 consecutive tests stretching over 5 years since the fourth test against the 1965 Springbok team.

He then asked the question:

How could such a great touring side lose 1-3 in a series against a Springbok team that would never rate as the best New Zealand opposition has faced in the last 5 years?

David then explains what he think were the reason(s) for the series loss. The first issue he addresses is injuries to key players and arising from that shocking team selection decisions by the New Zealand selectors. He specifically refers to the omission of Wayne Cottrell after the lost in the first test and express the opinion that the selectors went a little panicky after the third test when they omitted experienced players like AJ Wyllie, MJ Dick and Fergie McCormick.

Another major reason for the series loss in his opinion was the fact that the All Black had it too easily in the tour matches. He put it as follows:

They had it too easy in most of the games and there was a relaxation in the basic skills. Tackling became a lost art because the tourists were seldom called on to set up defensive screens. They were suffering from delusions of grandeur. They were winning so handsomely that they disregarded the fundamentals of the game and indulged in fancy patterns that had too many loose threads.

According to him, the perception of many South African, that there is depth in Springbokrugby is wrong and he goes on to state that he believes that a large gap exists between national and provincial rugby in South Africa.

Provincial rugby in SA is bad, negative and unimaginative so much so that the All Blacks had little trouble to completely destroy virtually all the provincial sides they played on tour. These provincial teams have too easily and quickly complained about so-called foil and dirty tactics and especially about the All Blacks standard practice to step on or ruck obstructing opposition players away at the break downs.

He concludes that Springbok side consists of a "team of oldies" and that South Africa should be concerned (rather than euphoric) about the state of their rugby and their lack of depth in certain positions.

I think in SA few would have agreed with him in 1970 but in 1972 the correctness of his observation came true when a Springbok side full of new faces lost against John Pullin's England team. And two years later it was an absolute nightmare when the Lions of 1974 toured unbeaten through South Africa not losing a single match on top of winning the first three test matches and drawing the last one.

The 1970 All Black touring side to South Africa 

1970 Tour - Ne Exeat Regno

There was significant pressure from various quarters within New Zealand to stop the tour. David provides background of several internal political and local events in New Zealand –that most South Africans were not even aware off- that almost stopped the tour. 

Here, a march against the 1970 All Black tour to South Africa leaves Victoria University in Wellington.

The resistance against rugby tours to South Africa gained momentum in the early 1960’s when the NZ Rugby Union capitulated to send an "all white" team to South Africa. The 1960 tour was approved by a small minority of board members and there was an unspoken agreement between council members on the NZ Rugby Board that the 1960 team would be the last all white team that New Zealand will send to the republic.

In 1965, Danie Craven and other SA rugby board members left the impression in NZ that the next invitation for a New Zealand rugby team to visit SA will contain no race specifications.

This was received with much hope and anticipation in New Zealand as David explains:

It was a period of great hope and expectation. Until that climatic morning on Monday 6 September 1965, when the South African Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior announced that Maori would not be welcomed in 1967.

The invitation for the All Blacks to South Africa was received in mid-February 1966. On 25 February the NZRFU reacted by stating that the New Zealand Rugby Football Union could not under the terms of the invitation, see its way clear to send an All Balck side in 1967.

This resulted in a year of much speculation and hopeful expectation that things will be sorted and that the South African government wil reverse its stance and reword the terms of the invitation. In April 1968 it was announced that the All Blacks were invited for a tour to South Africa without any race specifications. David put it as follows:

The news was released to the world and everyone rejoiced". The tour had the support of the NZRFU but the New Zealand’s announcement of acceptance gave rise to a sequence of incidents, actions and demonstrations which left no doubt that not everyone in NZ were happy with proceedings.

The global sports boycott against South Africa started to get international stature and momentum in the early 60’s and was beginning to show its teeth at this stage; various action groups against race segregation began to appear in NZ and jumped on the global sport boycott wagon. Associations or action groups that specifically sprung to life as a result of the envisaged tour were associations like CARE (Citizens Association for Racial Equality) and HART (Halt All Racist Tours Association) and a youth movement among the students called PYM (The Progressive Youth Movement).

The PYM a big conference in Hamilton early in February of 1969. A manifesto to stop the tour was released; included in that document was a plan to campaign the country for signatures in support of a petition to parliament. The aim was to sample at least 100 000 signatures of support against the tour. In the end they got only 19 609 signatures.

Within this time, Christchurch also submitted a bid to house the 1974 Commonwealth Games and there was consternation in NZ, when some of the black African countries indicated they will oppose the bid if the Rugby tour were to proceed. The chairman of the Christchurch Commonwealth Games bid, however, took a stand and made it clear he and his committee felt the tour should proceed even if that should have a negative impact on Christchurch’s chance to get the vote.

Shortly after, this the powerful Federation of Labour entered the battle and made it clear that they will withdraw all services, including aircraft maintenance and refuelling, if the All Black tour were to proceed. In David's words: This was the week where even the most ardent rugby men became apprehensive about the tour. The crisis was, however, overcome when a rift threatened to developed within the labour union circles if the union went through with the resolution. The Federation of Labour subsequently withdrew their resolution and announced that no action would be taken against the tour.

Respect and support for the anti-tour movement received a major blow when a bomb was thrown through a window and exploded on May 25, 1968 in the Auckland rugby clubhouse. A wave of anger and disillusionment swept through the country as a result of that and the tour gained much support and the general feeling was that the tour was now a definite reality.

There were a few demonstrations at the All Black trials but mostly there were more policemen than protesters and the trials went smoothly and without any noteworthy incidents. The anti-tour movement did receive some further support when Ken Gray an All Black prop announced he had retired from the game because he always had moral reservations about touring to South Africa.

Then came a masterful move by a bookseller in Wellington by the name of Roy Parsons. Parson summoned a court order against the All Black captain, coach and team management under an ancient law "Ne Exeat Regno". The writ sought to restrain them from leaving the jurisdiction of the country on the grounds that it would be detriment to the country. David put it as follows:

It was a masterly piece of legal intricacy, indeed a noble last-minute effort to stop the tour. One could only admire the Ingenuity of it all. The writ invoked the 14th century law of "ne exeat regno" (not leaving the realm).  

The case was heard in the Supreme court in Wellington on 8 June. The hearing lasted for nearly 6 hours and the lay mind boggled at the involved argument, not to mention the 37 law books of impressive size and importance that covered the tables of the two counsels. The request was denied after many debate on grounds of absence of clear authority or precedent. It was the last legal obstruction to the tour.

Approximately 300 demonstrators arrived at the airport on the day the plane left, and there were fears of a bomb in the aircraft but the AB's boarded the plane in spite of this scary threat and there were no problems with the takeoff and flight. 

Four Maori's who went on the 1970 All Black tour to South Africa.