Tonight the All Blacks take on the Springboks in Wellington in another Rugby Championship test. Through high exposure these are no longer the cherished events they were. Here are four of the stranger fixtures between the two nations back in the day when Athletic Park was the home of rugby in the capital.
1921: New Zealand 0 South Africa 0
Imagine the build-up to this one. The first ever series between the two countries, and this was the third and deciding test. A new All Black captain, lots of wind, lots of rain, and lots of male spectators wearing bowler hats.
The only thing that was missing was points. All part of the folklore.
1981: New Zealand 12 South Africa 24
The second test of that tour. Security issues had got to the stage that the Bok management decidied the best option was to spend the Friday night sleeping inside the main stand. Just contemplate what that must have been like. The main stand at Athletic Park was a bleak, drafty concrete box that smelt of urine.
No other team would have handled that, but this is the Springboks, and nothing like getting the metaphorical wagon wheels to circle.
They played with the wind in the first half, got to a 18-3 lead and that was just too much of a lead.
1994: New Zealand 13 South Africa 9
The day Johan Le Roux got a bit hungry and decided that Sean Fitzpatrick’s ear would make a good afternoon tea. He got an 18 month suspension for that, and Fitzpatrick kept on holding on to opposition players’ jersies in deep dark rucks.
That test also featured a (slightly dubious) push-over try by the All Blacks against the Springboks. This is most probably the only time that ever happened. And with a World Cup the following year all was looking good.
1998: New Zealand 3 South Africa 13
At the heart of John Hart’s Annus Miserablis, and the five defeats on the trot. He had hung Andrew Mehrtens out to dry during the week after a disappointing performance in a loss against the Wallabies. But he was called on early in the second half after Carlos Spencer missed four very gettable penalties in the first half.
This was a match dominated by the home side, with a full house of botched opportunities. Dropping the ball over the line, shepherding when a try was almost certain, Wilson not quite making it to the ball before the deadball line and, most tellingly, Taine Randell having no support following a charge from an attacking scrum.
South Africa tackled and tackled, and executed a well-worked try from a set piece when they had a rare attack, and New Zealand were kept to 3 points for the first time since 1986. They have not been kept to 3 points since.
Mark Mayerhofler played at centre that day.