News | 29 June 2021

Springbok tour comes to life on Twitter for anniversary

The 1981 South African Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand divided a nation – 40 years on, we’re revisiting this historic event with a modern twist.

Image of Springbok Tour protestors at Palmerston North Square Credit: Palmerston North Library Ref: CC BY-NC 4.0
Springbok tour protestors in Palmerston North - credit Palmerston North Library Ref: CC BY-NC 4.0"

Wellington City Libraries and City Archives have dug up news clippings, photos and ephemera from the tour, and will be live tweeting them 40 years from the date they happened throughout July, August and September.

The controversial rugby tour saw violent clashes between rugby fans, anti-apartheid protestors and police across the country, and is still a significant part of our history says Mayor Andy Foster.

“The Springbok tour is one of the most formative events in our contemporary history, which saw remarkable change in our identity as a country and a people.  It also had a profound effect in supporting the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and helping hasten the end of apartheid. Nelson Mandela recalled hearing of the Hamilton rugby match cancellation in his prison cell – thinking ‘it was as if the sun had come out’.

“Many Wellingtonians will remember the events of the time as a dark stain in our history – no matter what side of the debate they were on.

“This reliving of our past through archival resources on Twitter will be engaging, insightful and potentially confronting – I’ll definitely be following its progress with interest.”

Wellington City Libraries and City Archives will be joining forces to bring the experience into the social media realm from Tuesday 6 July for the 56 days of the tour.

Georgia Mackay, Te Kano Kohinga Kupu o Pōneke City Archives Access Specialist, is very excited to be part of the team co-hosting the historic live tweeting of the 1981 Springbok’s tour. 

“The tour was a significant event – not only for Aotearoa New Zealand, but for the world – and marked one of the largest civil disturbances the country has ever seen. 

“We’ve been scouring the archive to find never before seen documents, posters, and paraphernalia related to the tour and we can’t wait to bring everyone this exciting and thought-provoking material. 

“We hope that the tweets from this account spark a conversation about the impact of the tour, and gives everyone a feel for what it was like to experience the events as they happened.”

Paul Veart, Wellington City Libraries’ Customer Specialist, says they want to reflect the tour honestly, openly and without bias.

“This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Springbok’s 1981 tour of New Zealand. Anniversaries are useful, but they have a side-effect: they tend to make things tidy. And it doesn’t take much research - or thinking back - to realise the Springbok Tour was a lot of things, but tidy wasn’t one of them!

“So how do you address this messiness four decades later? One way is with historic live tweeting. The secret to historic live tweeting is simple: you tweet past events as if they were happening in the present. You tweet personal stories; you tweet contradicting news reports; you tweet as if you don’t know what the outcome is going to be. 

“So that’s what we’re going to do! Join us as we journey back to 1981, to the front lines between Patu and the Red Squad, into divided living rooms and workplaces, through one of the most significant local events of the twentieth century.”

How to follow the tour on Twitter

From Tuesday 6 July for 56 days:
Name: 1981 Springbok Tour Live
Handle: @TweetTheTour
Hashtag: #TweetTheTour1981