Wed, Apr 14, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Maori player says 1956 team told to lose to Springboks

AP , WELLINGTON

A player in the 1956 New Zealand Maori team claimed on Monday that a government minister told them to lose a match against the Springboks to prevent All Blacks sides being barred from South Africa.

Muru Walters, the fullback in the 1956 team who is now an Anglican bishop, said then-New Zealand Minister of Maori Affairs Ernest Corbett visited the Maori side in its dressing room before the match and told the players they should lose “for the future of rugby.”

Corbett, who died in 1968, purportedly said the All Blacks may otherwise never be invited back to South Africa.

The Maori team was expected to test the Springboks — who went on to lose a four-Test series against the All Blacks — but was beaten 37-0 in front of a crowd of 61,000 at Eden Park in Auckland. The team was later widely ridiculed for its performance.

Walters said in a radio interview on Monday that Corbett’s instruction had “ripped the guts out of the spirits of our team. What he said was: ‘You must not win this game or we will never be invited to South Africa again,’”

“I thought he was joking, but then another official came in and said the same thing ... ‘For the future of rugby, don’t beat the South Africans,’” he said.

Walters’ claims comes as New Zealand celebrates the centenary of the formation of the first Maori team and after a refusal by the New Zealand Rugby Union to apologize to indigenous Maori for excluding them from All Blacks teams that toured South Africa in 1928, 1949 and 1960.

In those years, New Zealand rugby bowed to South African demands to omit colored players from national teams to tour South Africa.

Current New Zealand Minister of Maori Affairs, Pita Sharples, has described as “arrogant” the New Zealand union’s failure to offer an apology to Maori players who were excluded from South African tours.

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