You are here
In the autumn of 1980, the Mbabalas made a tour of the United states, marking the first ever American appearance of a black rugby club from South Africa. The team was comprised of workers employed in the nation's mining industry.
The visit followed a stopover in Great Britain where the team trained at Oxford University. Both trips came at a time when the world’s sport organization prohibited apartheid South Africa from playing internationally, or in the Olympics.
The leader of the tour was Durban native Tom Bedford, a 25-time capped Springbok rugger, and former Rhodes Scholar. He stated the reason for bringing over the Mbabalas was that, ”The tour was organized to allow young South Africans the opportunity of seeing what the world looked like beyond the borders of South Africa.”
Bedford succeeded convincing the Anglo-American Mining Corporation of the benefits of using rugby – albeit with only young black players – to change some perceptions about sport in the country. One of the tour stipulations was that it had no official involvement with the South African government.
The Mbabalas on their three-week USA stay, stopped in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Akron, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, Orland, and Miami.
Bedford was prescient when he stated, “…international acceptance is going to come whether white South Africans like it or not, through the black player. There is no other way.”