38 years since Springbok tour protests

By Jessica Tyson

The rugby game between the All Blacks and Springboks this weekend will bring back memories for those who were witness to the Springbok tour protests in 1981.

Exactly 38 years ago today hundreds of protesters invaded Rugby Park in Waikato as the Ranfurly Shield holders prepared to take on the Apartheid South African Springboks.

Shortly before kick-off, protesters tore down a boundary fence and poured into the venue, forcing police to cancel the match.

According to New Zealand History, one of the protesters said it took people only 10 seconds to tear down the fence.

“It was very fast, the crowd on the bank pulled away from us and a flood of people went through and onto the ground.  We ran under the goalposts into the middle.  I remember the priests struggling with a bloody big cross,” the protester said.

Around 50 people were arrested.  

“It was terrifying, I don’t know how big the crowd was, but they were clearly furious– bottles and God knows what else were hurled at us and people kept trying to get onto the pitch.  The police looked vulnerable as they spread out around the whole ground.”

 The footage filmed on July 25 was viewed live in South Africa and gave comfort to incarcerated opponents of apartheid.  Nelson Mandela himself recalled the political prisoners on Robben Island rattling their cell doors, saying "it was like the sun came out".

The protests also further stimulated debate about racism and the place of Māori in New Zealand.

The All Blacks will play South Africa at Westpac Stadium this Saturday.