Now that a multiracial Springboks team have triumphed in the Rugby World Cup, we need to remember the level of controversy that surrounded an all-white South African rugby team touring Britain 50 years ago. I remember that on 15 November 1969 as the team was due to play in Swansea, a large protest assembled and peacefully marched from the civic centre, through the town, to the ground. A few people invaded the pitch at half-time.
The response of the South Wales police and aggressive “vigilantes” ensured that the protest reached the front pages of the national press and generated much support.
I was one of many students from Cardiff who joined the protest. We experienced a form of partisan public order policing that we have never forgotten and led to critical editorials in several newspapers. Predictably, after a police investigation of themselves, the then home secretary, James Callaghan, found the police had no case to answer. Inevitably, these events radicalised many protesters.
This match occurred shortly after the MCC’s selection of Basil D’Oliveira for the England cricket team was effectively vetoed by an apartheid government. Our anti-apartheid protests in Swansea ensured that opposition to the rest of the tour was high profile.
• Rather than crying over England’s World Cup loss to South Africa, we should be be bemoaning the state of the game of rugby union.
I recorded all the knockout games and on playback had no more than 40 minutes of viewing, having eliminated the inordinate amount of time wasted on scrums and lineouts. Drastic action is needed if the sport is ever to emulate the excitement and flow of the round ball game.
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