The Springboks and All Blacks will celebrate 100 years of their rivalry when they face off in the Rugby Championship later this year.
The rivalry began when the touring South African side of 1921 opened their first visit to New Zealand against Wanganui on 13 July.
Initially, no clear winners emerged as the first two series, 1921 in New Zealand and 1928 in South Africa, were drawn. However, a scrummaging masterclass in the third Test in 1937 contributed to a 17-6, five-try drubbing that stands as one of the most damaging of all All Blacks defeats.
It would be 1956 before New Zealand won a series. From then until 1981, the contact became increasingly riven with political and social division as multi-cultural New Zealand took issue with the racist government of South Africa.
Boycotts contributed to the final breakdown of the policy of apartheid in South Africa, resulting in the first politics-free tour in 1992.
It was a momentous occasion when both New Zealand and Australia toured to honour the passing of the racist regime, but it was especially significant for New Zealand.
Former All Blacks midfield back Eroni Clarke was part of the side that toured South Africa for the reconciliation Test of 1992. He recounted the tour during an allblacks.com podcast interview.
Clarke said the dropping of the sports boycotts against South Africa resulted in a visit tacked on the end of what had been a tough All Blacks’ tour to Australia.
It had already been a busy season for the New Zealanders who celebrated the centenary of New Zealand’s Rugby Union. They had played three Tests against a World XV, two Tests against Ireland and three Tests against Australia, where they lost the Bledisloe Cup 2-1 in a series in which the widest margin in points was the three in the final Test.
Before their one-off Test, they played games against Natal, Orange Free State, the Junior Springboks and Central Unions.
Clarke said the players had grown up on the stories of South African passion for the game, a fact hit home when they arrived in South Africa at 3am only to find the airport full of fans desperate to see them.
‘We played Natal that [first] weekend, and we ran out, and the sound was deafening. Their grounds were … Eden Park held 50,000, and their grounds were 75,000. But when Natal ran out, the cheer went straight through me.
‘For most of that game, I couldn’t hear a thing. To communicate with the guys, we were shouting at each other.
‘We really got a taste of how fanatical the South Africans are. They love you before the game, they love you after the game but in that 80 minutes it’s war, and it’s really incredible,’ he said.
New Zealand won the game 27-24, as South Africa came back from a 17-point deficit to finish within three points.
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