The grassroots of the 1981 Springbok tour: an examination of the actions and perspectives of everyday New Zealanders during the 1981 Springbok Rugby tour of New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis uncovers the untold stories of everyday New Zealanders, who participated in, witnessed or have memories of the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour of New Zealand. It is these stories that are missing from the existing historiography on the Tour which tends to focus on the rugby games, the politics of the time, and the protest movement. This thesis uses an oral history methodology in order to gain an understanding of the individual motivations and experiences of the different people who supported and opposed the Tour in the city of Christchurch. By uncovering these stories this thesis challenges several myths surrounding the Tour which have been established and perpetuated by the historiography and which also exist within the public’s perception of the Tour.
This thesis argues that a number of these myths are not necessarily correct. One of these myths places the genesis for the argument over sporting contact with South Africa as the 1960 Tour. This thesis disputes this idea, instead arguing that the origin of the debate was actually 1919 when precedents were set for bringing the colour line into rugby. This thesis also argues that Tour supporters and protesters cannot be stereotyped based solely on their demographics. Instead, this thesis finds that New Zealanders had very specific reasons for either supporting or opposing the Tour which were influenced not by demographics, but by personal values and beliefs.
Furthermore, this thesis disputes the belief held by Tour supporters that the majority of protesters resorted to violence in order to stop the Tour from proceeding. Rather, this thesis finds that only a small proportion of protesters resorted to such tactics. This thesis also discusses the use of force by police and argues that excessive force and police brutality were not common occurrences during the Tour. Additionally, this thesis explores the Tour’s impact on the relationships between New Zealanders and questions whether divisions occurred within families because of differences of opinion on the Tour. This thesis also considers whether the Tour was indeed the watershed moment that it has been touted as, by analysing the impact that it had on New Zealand society.