‘No Maoris – No Tour’ poster, 1959.
In May 1960 the All Blacks were due to leave for a tour of South Africa. They had finally won a series for the first time in 1956 and this was a much anticipated rematch between the two powerhouses of world rugby. However the 1960 tour is best remembered for the fact that no players of Māori descent were selected. The decision to comply with South Africa’s strict segregationist apartheid policies by not selecting Māori players caused outrage. Some of the biggest public protests in New Zealand’s history failed to convince the Labour government to intervene. Prime Minister Walter Nash supported the rugby union, arguing that to include Māori ‘would be an act of the greatest folly and cruelty to the Maori race’.
The Citizens’ All Black Tour Association, of which Ngāi Tahu leader Frank Winter was a prominent member, campaigned to stop the tour, using the slogan ‘No Maoris – No Tour’. More than 150,000 New Zealanders signed a petition opposing the tour – this remains one of the largest petitions in our history. Others marched in the streets to voice their opposition. One unique form of protest came from the hugely popular Howard Morrison Quartet. Band member Gerry Merito transformed Lonnie Donegan’s ‘My old man's a dustman’ into ‘My old man’s an All Black’ to make a point about the decision to tour without Māori.
Despite these protests the tour went ahead.
When the All Blacks toured South Africa in 1970, Māori players were able to travel as ‘honorary whites’, a situation that appalled Winter and others in New Zealand’s growing anti-apartheid movement.
The Springboks played a New Zealand Māori XV at Napier on the first tour in 1921, winning narrowly, 9–8. One South African journalist reported his shock at witnessing white supporters actively supporting the Māori XV. The two teams next met in 1956, when New Zealand Māori were defeated 37–0, and again in 1965 when they were defeated 9–3. Napier was the venue in 1981 for a hard-fought 12-all draw.
On the 1976 tour to South Africa the All Blacks played a South African Coloureds team in Cape Town, winning 25–3.