Maori lay down a rugby challenge – but were they asked to throw the match?
Former rugby player Tiny Hill has denied the New Zealand Maori were instructed to lose their match against the 1956 Springboks, and instead blamed poor tactics for their 37-nil loss.
This week, former Maori fullback Muru Walters, now Te Pihopa o Te Upoko o Te Ika, alleged Maori affairs minister Ernest Corbett told the team they should not beat the tourists because if they did the All Blacks would never be invited back to aparthied South Africa.
The message, alleged Bishop Walters, was delivered in the dressing shed just minutes before the match and it "ripped the guts out of the spirits of our team".
But Hill, of Canterbury, who played lock that day and at flanker and No 8 in three of the tests, denied Corbett ever made his speech or was even sighted before the match.
"As far as I was concerned, Ernie Corbett was never in the dressing room at all, because I know him and I come from Taranaki. I don't remember him being there."
Hill blamed the loss on an incorrect battle plan instead of the orders of a bureaucrat.
"There was nothing like that at all. We went out there to play the game; we used the wrong tactics on the day. We tried to play it like University the week before ... We never got the ball over the advantage line. They were on attack most of the time and we had to defend most of the time. That was the problem."
Three days earlier, New Zealand Universities beat the Boks 22-15, but the Maori attack struggled to make headway against the Boks' rugged loose forwards in front of 61,000 fans at Eden Park.
Contrary to some reports this week, it was centre Bill Gray, not Hill, who captained the Maori that day.
"What he (Corbett) said was you must not win this game or we will never be invited to South Africa again," Bishop Walters told Radio Waatea this week.
"That was a pretty destructive message, actually ... and it ripped the guts out of our spirits of our team."
Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples says he is shocked and appalled at the allegations
Dr Sharples said it was the first time he had heard such allegations.
"I understand Bishop Walters intends to approach me and I look forward to hearing more details," he said.
Dr Sharples previously labelled the NZRU arrogant for refusing to apologise to former Maori players for excluding them from past tours to South Africa on racial grounds.
The South African apartheid regime of segregation was in force from 1948 to 1994. Maori players were excluded from All Black tours in 1928, 1949 and 1960.
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