THE 07 CAVALIERS
Having seen the official proposed New Zealand Rugby tour of South Africa cancelled in 1985, it was maybe no surprise that a rebel offer was made the following year.
The South Africans, desperate for sporting contact with the outside world, are believed to have offered up cash to lure what was effectively an All Blacks team in disguise to the Republic.
It was a monumentally disruptive invitation because there were so many players desperate to play in South Africa and yet by doing so, they were inevitably going to face a consequence.
The New Zealand Rugby Union had no choice but to impose a two-game ban on all those who toured with the Cavaliers, which effectively meant they had to pick an All Black team to play France that was largely made up of players who had little or no test experience.
It was random. The squad that was picked became known as the Baby Blacks, and they were given no chance of winning, such was their inexperience and perceived lack of quality.
But what the Baby Blacks did was show the depth and resilience of New Zealand rugby by winning the test in Christchurch.
What the Baby Blacks also did was fast track the careers of a few key players who would go on to be seriously good All Blacks – top of the list being Sean Fitzpatrick.
He was relatively unknown in 1986, but made the All Blacks reserves, only to be called into the starting team the night before the test. He never looked back – going on to become the most capped player in New Zealand history.
“Looking back, it was probably a watershed,” says All Blacks coach of that period Brian Lochore. “Many of those players would’ve made it eventually, but they got an opportunity to have a crack at a younger age and many became great All Blacks over a period of time.
REBEL TOUR The Cavaliers opened the path for a handful of All Blacks legends to emerge.