The Springboks arrived: 40 years ago this month

It is the 40th anniversary of the controversial and divisive 1981 Springbok rugby tour. The Christchurch Star newspaper were out documenting what was happening.

Negative showing Springbok rugby tour protest in Cathedral Square, opens a new window
Springbok rugby tour protest in Cathedral Square, 4 July 1981, Christchurch Star Archive, CCL-Star-1981-4888-007-018N-01.
Negative strip from the Christchurch Star Archive showing National day of shame Springbok rugby tour protest rally, opens a new window
National day of shame Springbok rugby tour protest rally, 22 July 1981, Christchurch Star Archive. CCL-Star-1981-4996-013-024N-02.
Negative strip with Crowds of Springbok rugby tour protesters, opens a new window
Crowds of Springbok rugby tour protesters, 15 August 1981, Christchurch Star Archive, CCL-Star-1981-5022-001-080N-11.

Protests and controversy about South Africa, race and sport had been around in varying degrees since 1921 but came to a head with the 1981 Springbok rugby tour. Protests had been held for months to try and prevent the Springbok team from South Africa arriving in New Zealand, but with no success. On the 19th of July, they arrived in Auckland to a New Zealand divided about mixing sports with politics and the Gleneagles Agreement. The Gleneagles Agreement aimed to 'discourage' sporting contact with South Africa who were operating under a system of racial segregation and discrimination called Apartheid. The Prime Minister Robert Muldoon signed the agreement in 1977 along with other Commonwealth Heads of Government.

Anti-tour protests continued during the 56 days that the Springboks were here. The first game against Poverty Bay in Gisborne on the 22nd July resulted in the 'Day of Shame' protests throughout the whole country. The protests in Christchurch escalated on the day of the first Test match against the All Blacks at Lancaster Park on the 15th August.

Explore the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour, opens a new window items that we have in our collection.
Perhaps you can provide more specific information or your memories to some of the images and negative strips that we have in the collection? You can add comments and stories to the images so that we all know more about what took place. You can register to post comments directly to the images in the toolbar for Canterbury Stories. Do you have images from this time? If you do and would like to contribute them, you can upload them directly through the Discovery Wall, opens a new window, or contact us, opens a new window if you have more than a few!

These images are just some of thousands in the Christchurch Star Archive that we house and are working through to digitise and make accessible online. There are over 9,000 negatives and 5,500 prints to explore in this particular collection. We now have a total of over 30,500 items that you can explore in Canterbury Stories that include photographs, negatives and maps.

Tweet the Tour

Check out Wellington City Libraries livetweeting the tour #TweetTheTour1981. It includes material from Christchurch City Libraries.

More about the Springbok Tour

Find resources in our collection:

'The 1981 Springbok rugby tour', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 4-Feb-2020

More information

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