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My old man's an All Black


Cover of the 45 rpm record, ‘On the rugged rugby-playing trail’.

‘On the rugged rugby-playing trail’/ ‘My old man’s an All Black’: the 1960 All Black rugby tour to South Africa

Sporting ties with South Africa during the apartheid years became a source of great debate and division in New Zealand society. The mass protests and civil unrest of the 1981 Springbok rugby tour are seen as the pinnacle of this debate. But protest against playing South African teams began as early as 1960, when the All Blacks bowed to the race laws of the republic and selected a touring team with no Māori players.

Kiwi Records released a 45 to mark the tour. On one side was ‘On the rugged rugby-playing trail’, sung by the Rugbymen with the Half-timers, under the musical direction of Ken Avery.

We’re on the rugged, rugby-playing trail,
Where only sheer determination will prevail,
Touring All Blacks with a job to do –
Win the Tests and beat the Transvaal, too.
Although we kick and push and tackle till we burst,
Keep on the run to see we get there first,
We’re the boys from Enzed who will never fail
On the rugged, rugby-playing trail.

The flip-side is a humourous monolgue called 'What is a rugby supporter" written by Alwyn Owen and narrated by John Pike.

Other musicians were aware that not all of ‘the boys from Enzed’ were involved. Gerry Merito, a member of the popular all-Māori Howard Morrison Quartet, wrote ‘My old man’s an All Black’. Described as a ‘bitter-sweet parody’ of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘My old man's a dustman’, Merito’s composition used humour to make its point about the decision to tour without Māori.

The song was recorded in the Pukekohe Town Hall. The hall doors were locked to prevent the audience leaving during recording. By 1 a.m. the producer was satisfied and the increasingly restless townsfolk were able to go home. The recording included a number of comic asides that gained laughs while making a point:

Oh, my old man’s an All Black,
He wears the silver fern,
But his mates just couldn’t take him
So he’s out now for a turn.

(Fi Fi Fo Fum, there’s no Horis in this scrum.)

Well the All Black team is leaving
And the best of luck to them
And if they find things tricky
They’ll have to play like men
Cos the Springboks will be watching from Transvaal to Cape Town
That team that ain’t got Horis
To score their last touch down.

The song was a great hit, selling an estimated 60,000 copies. The Howard Morrison Quartet was not a group that middle New Zealand would find threatening. Despite the sentiment of ‘My old man’s an All Black’, it is debatable whether the song’s success was a mark of protest.


Steve Watters collection

How to cite this page

My old man's an All Black, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated