Mystery over why SA Rugby still recognises rogue Cavaliers tour

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander.

SA Rugby was stumped on Thursday as to why they previously bestowed Test status on the 1986 rebel series against the New Zealand Cavaliers.

They list them as official Tests despite the fact that neither the New Zealand Rugby Football Union‚ nor the International Rugby Board (forerunner to World Rugby) countenanced the tour.

At the height of South Africa’s isolation from the rugby world‚ the Cavaliers controversially opted to embark on a 12-match tour‚ after their home union in New Zealand pulled the plug on a tour of South Africa a year earlier.

“I don’t know. I didn’t know it was there‚” said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander when asked why the Springboks’ four clashes with the Cavaliers are recognised as Tests by his organisation.

An SA Rugby spokesman confirmed that the matches played in the series were bestowed Test status‚ but could not say why.

“I guess it was a decision taken a long time ago‚ maybe after unity‚ and the people who took that decision are no longer around. I really don’t know why they afforded it Test status.”

The tour came at the height of South African sporting isolation when rebel tours became a popular outlet for local sports administrators.

Had it not been for that series the Springboks would have been in the international wilderness between 1984 and 1989. They did play against a South Seas Barbarians side in 1987 but that was even further removed from the real deal.

The 1986 tour was the first engagement between South Africa and New Zealand since the deeply controversial 1981 tour of New Zealand by Wynand Claassen’s Springboks.

The All Blacks’ 1985 tour to South Africa was cancelled leaving rugby authorities to rogue the following year.

Despite the controversy the series against the Cavaliers did deliver high calibre action with the Springboks taking the series 3-1.

The Springboks won the first clash in Cape Town before the tourists levelled the series in Durban. The Boks however went on to win convincingly at Loftus and sealed the series at Ellis Park.

The first ‘Test’ featured ‘debuts’ for hooker Uli Schmidt‚ flankers Wahl Bartmann and Gert Smal‚ No8 Jannie Breedt‚ scrumhalf Christo Ferreira and right wing Jaco Reinach.

Props Frans Erasmus and Piet Kruger made their ‘debuts’ at Loftus following the Kings Park defeat‚ as did scrumhalf Garth Wright.

Centre Helgard Muller made his ‘debut’ on the wing late in the fourth clash.

The series was competitive largely because the Cavaliers closely resembled what would have been the All Blacks team had they got the nod.

David Kirk‚ who went on to captain the All Blacks to the Rugby World Cup crown in 1987 and John Kirwan‚ who was one of the stars of that tournament‚ opted not to come to South Africa in 1986.

Andy Dalton‚ Steve McDowell‚ Kieran Crowley‚ Craig Green‚ Grant Fox‚ Warwick Taylor‚ Albert Anderson‚ Gary Whetton‚ Allan Whetton‚ Murray Pierce and Wayne Shelford were banned for two Tests upon their return from the rebel tour but they all went on to collect RWC winners medals as All Blacks the following year.

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