All Blacks v Springboks: NZ legends reflect on divisive period in treasured South Africa rivalry

On Saturday, the All Blacks and Springboks - two proud rugby nations - will do battle for the 100th time.

But early encounters were played against a backdrop of apartheid and political discontent - a divisive relationship that transcended sporting and racial divides.

Over 99 matches, the famous rivalry has seen the best and worst of the game. 

In 1981 - exactly sixty years after the very first encounter at Carisbrook, the Springboks tour divided the nation, as anti-apartheid protesters voiced their outrage.

The opposition was so fierce, the third test at Eden Park was halted when flour bombs were dropped on the field by a plane organised by protesters.

"We just wanted to play rugby," says former All Blacks halfback Dave Loveridge, who was on the field that fateful day.

"It was quite scary when you're there waiting for the ball at the lineout and you can see over top of the lineout, and you can see . Here it comes again."

But the seeds of discontent were sewn well before the 1981 tour NZ shores. 

On the 1970 tour to South Africa, 19-year-old Sir Bryan Williams - on debut for the All Blacks - was a sensation. But his presence there was unsettling.

"Some of the coloured community put me up on their shoulders and carried me around and some white guys took exception to that and came and started attacking them and dragged me down," Sir Brian recalls.

Williams had to make sacrifices just to be in South Africa. 

As a proud Samoan, he was only able to tour if he was accepted honorary white status, which he still refers to as an "absolutely ridiculous notion".

"I felt that, to be able to go to South Africa and represent my heritage and people of dark skin, was a higher cause."

The situation remained incredibly tense when South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup. But there was more controversy to come, with accusations the All Blacks had been food poisoned on the eve of their final against the Springboks. 

"Mentally, a long long time," Wilson says, when asked how long it took him to recover. "Physically, about seven to 10 days. I'd managed to put a bit of that weight on that I'd lost but mentally there were scars that lasted a lot longer."

But despite Wilson's illness that day, he holds no grudge.

"Whether you've won or lost, they're thanking you they're congratulating you, they're celebrating the occasion with you, they're offering you a beer."

The Springboks remain our fiercest rival on the field, and our most treasured, off it. 

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