NZ Rugby World - - Outside Influences -

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.

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