It was a cold, crisp winter's morning at Monticello Ground, Dunedin, in mid-July 1960. A heavy frost covered the ground. I was playing for Zingari Richmond under 7 stone schoolboys and as I pushed my way through the opposition, I hit a wall of players and fell to the ground, landing arkwardly. The pain was excruciating as I writhed on the ground. I broke my collarbone.
I was in considerable pain for three months as I walked and bused between the Dunedin hospital, physiotherapy department and doctors. It had just been announced that an all white All Black rugby team would tour South Africa. It was a bombshell to a young rugby player who had watched Waka Nathan, Mac Heriwini, Phillip Tautarangi, Ron Rangi and other Maori All Black hopefuls play Otago at Carisbrook a few weeks earlier. These guys ran like quicksilver, and cut through teams like swords. Legends such as Manga Emery, Alby Pryor, Muru Walters, the Maniapoto brothers and other were also not going to be given;the chance to wear the All Black jersey either in 1960. I was grestfallen and confused.
I pleaded to my Father and shopkeepers I knew in central Dunedin whose shops I walked past on my way to the hospital. Their shop windows had posters of the touring All Black team, but without Maori. I asked respected shop owners who had played rugby and cricket such as Charlie Saxton, Vin Cusack, Walter Findlay and even Bert Sutcliffe, why there were no Maoris in the All Black team. They had similar answers, " That is what the South Africans want,"
As a 12 year old I felt there was no justice in this world, yet on ANZAC day, we were told the Maori and Pakeha had fought side by side.
Well they weren't going to be playing side by side in the 1960 tour of South Africa.
'Apartheid was an evil that shattered millions of lives over the years,' says South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins..
The Citizens' All Black Tour Association, of which Ngai Tahu leader Frank Winter was a prominent member, campaigned to stop the tour, using the slogan 'No Maoris – No Tour'. More than 150,000 New Zealanders signed a petition opposing the tour - it remains one of the largest petitions in our history. Others marched in the streets to voice their opposition. One unique form of protest came from the hugely popular Howard Morrison Quartet. Band member Gerry Merito transformed Lonnie Donegan's ‘My old man's a dustman’ into ‘My old man’s an All Black’ to make a point about the decision to tour without Maori.
Despite these protests the tour went ahead.
Therefore it was with some satisfaction last weekend that I read that South African rugby has given its first indication it is willing to apologise to Maori over their non-selection in All Blacks sides that toured the republic.
In a dramatic turn in the centenary year of Maori rugby, the South African Rugby Union will meet next month to discuss the past treatment of Maori players and it's possible that could lead to a formal apology.
Waka Nathan was one of the 'greats' who was barred from going to South Africa.
It has also indicated it wants to meet with Maori officials after that conference.
This is in contrast to the New Zealand Rugby Union, which to date has refused to apologise for bowing to South African demands Maori players be excluded from All Blacks teams in 1928, 1949 and 1960 when the white South African government's apartheid views regarded the black majority as second-class citizens.
The NZRU's Maori board said last week it did not believe an apology was necessary.
But other Maori rugby figures including former All Blacks captain Taine Randell have disagreed.
South African rugby officials have been silent on the controversial issue, but yesterday SARU president Oregan Hoskins held out an olive branch to Maori in a move that will be seen as them taking the lead in the debate.
Hoskins told Sunday News the issue will be discussed at a meeting of the SARU executive council in mid-May and after that he wants to meet Maori leaders.
"Apartheid was an evil that shattered millions of lives over the years and continues to shadow the lives of all people in South Africa.
We battle with the legacy every day," Hoskins said in a written statement provided to Sunday News.
"We are aware of the current debate in New Zealand and will be discussing it at our next meeting, after which I would like to meet Maori representatives in New Zealand during the Vodacom Tri-Nations."
In last week's Sunday News, New Zealand Maori's most successful coach Matt Te Pou, who guided the team to a historic win over the British and Irish Lions in 2005, called on South Africa to play its part in an overdue reconciliation.
Te Pou floated the idea of South Africa playing a mid-week game against NZ Maori during their two-test Tri Nations trip to New Zealand in July.
That is unlikely to happen unless the Springboks widen their squad, but it appears SARU are looking at what they can do to play a part in the centenary celebrations of Maori rugby as well as address the issue of Maori players not being selected to tour the republic.