'We really got a taste of how fanatical the South Africans are'
SPOTLIGHT: The British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa will dominate the landscape, but July will bring another momentous occasion.
It will mark a century of the greatest rivalry in the game – the Springboks versus the All Blacks.
The rivalry began when the touring South African side of 1921 opened their first visit to New Zealand against Wanganui on July 13.
The first Test was at New Zealand’s famous ‘House of Pain’ (Carisbrook) in Dunedin on 13 August 1921.
The All Blacks won 13-5. That series ended in a one-all draw – the Boks winning the second encounter at Eden Park, with the third international a pointless (0-all) draw at Athletic Park.
The 1928 series in South Africa was also a draw – the Boks winning at Kings Park and Crusaders ground, while the Kiwis won at Ellis Park and Newlands.
The deadlock was finally broken in 1937. The All Blacks won at Athletic Park, with the Boks levelling the series at Lancaster Park.
However, a scrummaging master class in the third Test in 1937 – at Eden Park – contributed to a 17-6, five-try drubbing that stands as one of the most damaging of all All Blacks defeats.
Then followed the 1949 whitewash – the Boks winning at Newlands, Ellis Park, Kings Park and the Crusaders ground.
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 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, but it was especially significant for New Zealand.
Retired 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.
(Watch from 59 minutes, 31 seconds on the video as Eroni Clarke speaks about passionate SA crowds …)
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 1-2 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, 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 03.00, 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,” the 24-times capped Clarke said.
” Their grounds were [massive]. Eden Park held 50,000, and their grounds were 75,000. 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 added.
New Zealand won the 1992 Ellis Park Test 27-24, as South Africa came back from a 17-point deficit to finish within three points.
A 100 year rivalry 🇳🇿🇿🇦
On 13 August the All Blacks and @Springboks will mark exactly 100 years since they first clashed in 1921.
Let us know your favourite memories of the epic rivalry below ⬇️⬇️⬇️ pic.twitter.com/oMoXhmLO6z
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) April 5, 2021