No Māoris, no tour…

Sport is a huge part of the landscape of many countries. We have our sports we love, those that the odd person succeeds at and then sports that are unheard of.

Provocative action has been taken when it comes to sport for decades in New Zealand. This week I want to look at some of the sporting action that has happened in Aotearoa.

In 1921 NZ Māori rugby team played South Africa in Napier. One SA reporter sent home these words by telegraph…

“Bad enough having play team officially designated New Zealand Natives. Spectacle thousands Europeans frantically cheering on band of colored men to defeat members of own race was too much for Springboks, who frankly disgusted.”

WOW – just WOW!

Here’s a brief timeline of events that took place between NZ & South Africa when it came to rugby.

1960 – SA made it clear that Māori players were not welcome in the AB’s tour of SA. NZRU sent a racially chosen team to play. This was not the first this had happened but it was the catalyst for a protest.

Anglican Bishop Wiremu Panapa led a protest for “equality between Māori and Pākehā over not just the tour but wider instances of racism and inequality in New Zealand.”


1967 – The All Blacks tour of South Africa was cancelled as Māori were still not welcome.

1969 –  HART (halt all racist tours) was formed with significant Māori input.

1970 – SA said that Māori players would be given the status of ‘honorary whites’ which was a term applied by South Africans to certain ethnicities, giving them most of the rights of white citizens. The New Zealand Māori Council accepted this compromise but the Māori Women’s Welfare League opposed the tour.

1973 -The SA team’s tour of New Zealand was cancelled.

1981 – The Springbok tour took place in NZ


“The Patu Squad in Auckland was led by Māori activists Ripeka Evans, Donna Awatere and Hone Harawira. It had a core of around 100 members, mostly Māori. While the squad represented Māori opposition to the tour, there was overlap with other protest groups such as HART. The alliance between the groups was not always an easy one. Some issues supported by Māori protesters – particularly their emphasis on New Zealand racism and push for mana motuhake (Māori self-determination) – did not always sit well with other members of protest groups. Many protesters were arrested and charged as protests became increasingly militant.”

1985 – The tour to SA was cancelled after a legal challenge. A rebel group went the following year.

1994 – The Prime Minister (Jim Bolger) said the 1981 SA tour of NZ had been a mistake.

2010 – South African Rugby issued a formal apology for excluding Māori.

Nelson Mandela was in prison when he heard news that the Hamilton match of the 1981 Springbok tour was cancelled. He said it was as if ‘the sun had come out’.

South Africa and New Zealand were both struggling with issues of race & equality. Both nations have come a long way as is evident in their rugby teams.

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