The Springboks were officially welcomed to New Zealand on the Poho-o-Rawiri marae in Gisborne (just as they had been in 1965) on 19 July 1981. Despite all the pre-tour rhetoric and debate, few anticipated that the country was about to descend into near civil war, ‘a war played out twice a week’ as the Springboks moved from game to game.
The first game against Poverty Bay on 22 July saw tour supporters and anti-tour protestors confront each other, face to face, for the first time. On the field, the visitors won 24–6. As was to be the case for the entire tour, however, the real action was taking place on the streets surrounding the venue. See the related film clip and more about the Gisborne game.
The game against Waikato was called off in front of a full house at Rugby Park. A pitch invasion by several hundred anti-tour protesters and rumours that a light aircraft had been stolen from Taupō and was headed for Rugby Park proved too much for the authorities. See the related film clip and more about the Hamilton cancellation.
The Springboks defeated Taranaki in New Plymouth, but the real action that day occurred on Molesworth Street, outside Parliament in Wellington. Police used batons on anti-tour protesters for the first time. Former Prime Minister Norman Kirk’s prediction almost a decade earlier that a tour would result in the ‘greatest eruption of violence this country has ever known’ seemed close to being realised. See the related film clip and more about the Molesworth Street protest.
The All Blacks won the first test 14–9. Protest action at the ground and around the country led one policeman to recall that it was ‘sheer luck’ that no one was killed that day. See the related film clip and more about the Christchurch test.
The tourists squared the series with a convincing 24–12 victory at Athletic Park. The streets surrounding the ground resembled a battlefield as major protests occurred.
Action began early that morning when 7000 protesters gathered in central Wellington. Groups blocked the motorway exits into the city as well as road and pedestrian access to Athletic Park. Police responded by forming human wedges to allow rugby spectators through. There were many scuffles as protesters were dragged away. Some rugby fans lashed out at them with fists and boots and once more police batons were used on suburban New Zealand streets.
Elsewhere there was disruption to television coverage.
The All Blacks won the deciding third test 25–22. It was a game when ‘all hell broke loose’ as protesters fought with police outside the grounds and flour and smoke bombs were dropped from a Cessna aircraft inside. See the related film clip and more about the Auckland test.
See also: interactive map of the Tour for more detail about each game.
|22 July||v Poverty Bay at Gisborne||24–6|
|25 July||v Waikato at Hamilton||Cancelled *|
|29 July||v Taranaki at New Plymouth||34–9|
|1 August||v Manawatu at Palmerston North||31–19|
|5 August||v Wanganui at Whanganui||45–9|
|8 August||v Southland at Invercargill||22–6|
|11 August||v Otago at Dunedin||17–13|
|15 August||v All Blacks at Christchurch||9–14|
|19 August||v South Canterbury at Timaru||Cancelled *|
|22 August||v Nelson Bays at Nelson||83–0|
|25 August||v New Zealand Maoris at Napier||12–12|
|29 August||v All Blacks at Wellington||24–12|
|2 September||v Bay of Plenty at Rotorua||29–24|
|5 September||v Auckland at Auckland||39–12|
|8 September||v North Auckland at Whangarei||19–10|
|12 September||v All Blacks at Auckland||22–25|
* The games scheduled for Hamilton and Timaru were called off for security reasons. You can find out more about each of the games on our interactive map.