The involvement of the South African national rugby team, the Springboks, in international rugby is rife with controversy. In the 1960s, as international criticism of apartheid grew, the Springboks became increasingly isolated in the international arena as they were seen as representatives of the apartheid government. The 1976 All Blacks (New Zealand's national rugby team) tour of South Africa, which occurred shortly after the Sharpeville Massacre, attracted strong international condemnation that resulted in 28 countries boycotting the 1976 Summer Olympics. In 1977, the Commonwealth signed the Gleneagles Agreement which discouraged any sporting contact with South Africa which resulted in cancellations such as the 1979 Springbok tour of France. However, when the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand went ahead, in defiance of the Gleneagles Agreement, the International Rugby Board (IRB) banned South Africa from all international competitions until apartheid ended. As a result, the Springboks could not participate in the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cup. After the legal apparatus of apartheid was abolished in the early 1990s South Africa was readmitted into international rugby in 1992. On 23 March 1992, the South African Rugby Football Union was formally established with the merging of the non-racial South African Rugby Union and the South African Rugby Board. In 2005 the unified body changed its name to the South African Rugby Union (SARU). 

The history of the Rugby World Cup dates back to the 1980s with rugby becoming the last major sport to stage a tournament of this magnitude.


March, The IRB discusses the idea of a Rugby World Cup but the idea is dismissed as the ‘concept found no support.’ This is mainly due to the fact the IRB did not want the tournament to be commercially run.

June, At an emergency meeting, Australia proposes a World Cup with itself as host.


March, New Zealand puts forward its case to host a World Cup. The IRB instigates a World Cup feasibility study.

1 December, New Zealand and Australia form a joint working committee and begin a feasibility study. 


20-21 March, The IRB meets in Paris. A vote takes place as to whether a World Cup should be held. The World Cup is approved 10 votes to 6 and Australia and New Zealand would host the inaugural cup in 1987. It is decided it would be held every four years.


22 May-20 June, The first Rugby World Cup is hosted by Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand wins the tournament 29-9 against France and is awarded the Web Ellis Cup.


3 October-2 November, The Rugby World Cup is hosted by the United Kingdom, Ireland and France. Australia defeats England 12-6 at Twickenham and wins the tournament.


25 May-24 June, The Rugby World Cup is staged in South Africa; for the first time that all matches would be played in one country. South Africa participates in the tournament for the first time, following the end of their international sports boycott due to the apartheid regime. South Africa wins the tournament, defeating New Zealand 15-12 in the final at Ellis Park.


1 October- 6 November, The Rugby World Cup is hosted by Wales with matches played in four countries, namely England, France, Scotland and Ireland. The number of teams participating increased from 16 to 20. The Final is played at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, and is won by Australia who beat France 35-12.


10 October-22 November, The Rugby World Cup takes place in Australia. The initial plan was to co-host it with New Zealand, but disagreements surfaced over scheduling and signage of match venues, which led to Australia hosting it alone. The World Cup is won by England after they defeat Australia 20-17 at Telstra Stadium, Sydney.


7 September-20 October, The Rugby World Cup is hosted by France, with matches also being played in Wales and Scotland. It is won by South Africa who beat England 15-6 at Stade de France, Saint-Denis. South Africa becomes the second country to win the World Cup twice.


9 September-23 October, The World Cup is held in New Zealand. Russia replaces Portugal and particpates for the first time. South Africa is eliminated after losing to Australia, 11-9, in the quarter-finals. New Zealand defeats France 8-7 in the final. 

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