‘A war played out twice a week’

The Springboks were officially welcomed to New Zealand at Te Poho-o-Rawiri Marae in Gisborne (just as they had been in 1965) on 19 July 1981. Despite all the pre-tour rhetoric and debate, few anticipated that the country was about to descend into near civil war, ‘a war played out twice a week’ as the Springboks moved from game to game.

Film:  Gisborne game, 1981 Springbok tour

22 July, Gisborne – the scene is set

The first game against Poverty Bay on 22 July saw tour supporters and anti-tour protesters confront each other, face to face, for the first time. On the field, the visitors won 24–6. As was to be the case for the entire tour, however, the real action was taking place on the streets surrounding the venue. See the related film clip and more about the Gisborne game.

Film: game cancelled in Hamilton, 1981 Springbok tour

25 July, Hamilton – game cancelled

The game against Waikato was called off in front of a full house at Rugby Park. A ground invasion by several hundred anti-tour protesters and the fact that a light aircraft stolen from Taupō was rumoured to be headed for Rugby Park proved too much for the authorities. See the related film clip and more about the Hamilton cancellation.

Film:  clash on Molesworth St - 1981 Springbok tour

29 July, Molesworth Street, Wellington – an ‘eruption of violence’

The Springboks defeated Taranaki in New Plymouth, but the real action that day occurred on Molesworth Street, outside Parliament in Wellington. Police used batons on anti-tour protesters for the first time. Former Prime Minister Norman Kirk’s prediction eight years earlier that a tour would result in the ‘greatest eruption of violence this country has ever known’ seemed close to being realised. See the related film clip and more about the Molesworth Street protest.

Police and protestors face off

15 August, first test, Christchurch

The All Blacks won the first test 14–9. Protest action at the ground and around the country led one policeman to recall that it was ‘sheer luck’ that no one was killed that day. See the related film clip and more about the Christchurch test.

29 August, second test, Wellington

The tourists squared the series with a convincing 24–12 victory at Athletic Park. The streets surrounding the ground resembled a battlefield as major protests occurred.

Action began early that morning when 7000 protesters gathered in central Wellington. Groups blocked the motorway exits into the city as well as road and pedestrian access to Athletic Park. Police responded by forming human wedges to allow rugby spectators through. There were many scuffles as protesters were dragged away. Some rugby fans lashed out at them with fists and boots and once more police batons were used on suburban New Zealand streets.

Elsewhere there was disruption to television coverage.

Flour and smoke bombs on Eden Park

12 September, third test, Auckland

The All Blacks won the deciding third test 25–22. It was a game when ‘all hell broke loose’ as protesters fought with police outside the grounds and flour and smoke bombs were dropped on the ground from a Cessna aircraft. See the related film clip and more about the Auckland test.

Itinerary of games

See also: interactive map of the Tour for more detail about each game. 

Date Game Score
22 July v Poverty Bay at Gisborne 24–6
25 July v Waikato at Hamilton Cancelled *
29 July  v Taranaki at New Plymouth 34–9
1 August  v Manawatu at Palmerston North 31–19
5 August  v Wanganui at Whanganui 45–9
8 August v Southland at Invercargill 22–6
11 August  v Otago at Dunedin 17–13
15 August v All Blacks at Christchurch 9–14
19 August  v South Canterbury at Timaru Cancelled *
22 August  v Nelson Bays at Nelson 83–0
25 August  v New Zealand Maoris at Napier 12–12
29 August v All Blacks at Wellington 24–12
2 September  v Bay of Plenty at Rotorua 29–24
5 September v Auckland at Auckland 39–12
8 September v North Auckland at Whangārei 19–10
12 September v All Blacks at Auckland 22–25

* The games scheduled for Hamilton and Timaru were called off for security reasons. You can find out more about each of the games on our interactive map.

How to cite this page

'Tour diary', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/1981-springbok-tour/tour-diary, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jan-2022