All Black great Andy Haden has died and the tributes are flowing for his rugby prowess along with commentary about the various controversies he involved himself with – most importantly his strong support for rugby contacts with apartheid South Africa.
After the High Court stalled the 1985 All Black tour to apartheid South Africa Haden was livid.
Two rugby players, Phil Recordon and Paddy Finnegan, had taken the New Zealand Rugby Football Union to court arguing the proposed tour would cause serious damage to rugby’s public image and therefore the NZRFU would be in breach of its constitution under which it had the duty to promote the interests of rugby. The Court issued an interim injunction stopping the tour. Rather than fight the injunction in the Supreme Court the NZRFU cancelled the tour to much jubilation in New Zealand and around the world.
Haden was foaming. He went to work with others and secretly planned the 1986 “Cavalier’s tour” to South Africa. This was the All Black team selected for the previous year’s tour apart from a couple of principled players, such as John Kirwan, who refused to go.
Subsequently the Cavalier players had their names added to the United Nations Register of Sportspeople who had played in South Africa – the so-called UN blacklist.
A couple of years later Haden quietly wrote to the UN Special Committee on Apartheid asking for his name to be withdrawn from the list on the basis he wouldn’t play rugby in South Africa again. That was enough and his name was withdrawn.
It wasn’t a principled decision. Haden was worried the increasing pressure on “boycott-breakers” would hinder his international travel and business opportunities.
The giant had bowed to a lofty mountain – international solidarity against apartheid and racism.