South Africa’s World Cup winning rugby captain Siya Kolisi is leading his team and the Webb Ellis trophy on an extended victory parade around the country due to end in Cape Town on Monday (November 11).
It remains a chastening thought that only half-a-century ago, Kolisi would have been forbidden from pulling on his national jersey because of the colour of his skin.
Honorary International Olympic Committee member Sam Ramsamy told insidethegames this week that back then, "’the Springbok flag was reserved for only one group of people. Black people were not allowed to represent South Africa. Now people realise that the black players are as good as all the white players in the team, and some might say even better.’"
Ramsamy was a stalwart campaigner for racial equality and worked tirelessly as chairman of the South African Non Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC) in the years when doors were closed to non-white sportsmen and women.
In 1969, a Springbok side toured the British Isles. At the time the President of South African rugby (SARB) was Dr Danie Craven. "He said there would be a black Springbok over his dead body," recalled Ramsamy.
Racial segregation had been a way of life in South Africa since the early 20th century. Although Johannesburg had been lined up to host the 1934 British Empire Games ,these were soon switched to London.
After the Second World "definitions of ethnicity were enshrined in '"apartheid'".
Yet South Africans were still able to take part in Olympic and Commonwealth Games up to and including 1960. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Avery Brundage was not overly enthusiastic about banning them.
"At that time every protest movement against apartheid was labelled as communists under the bed," said Ramsamy. "The South African police exploited this. The anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa was supported by Russia, China and India and they, of course, were all branded communists. That I think to some extent boosted the South African apartheid movement."
By the late 1960s though, many African nations had achieved independence and became a powerful lobby in their own right.
"We were all united. That was very important. The pressure was building up. At that time there was a very strong group of people who were in charge of African sport," said Ramsamy.
As the Springboks landed in the UK, they found well organised opposition led by 19-year-old South African student Peter Hain. He later served in the same British Government as another protest organiser, future Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
At this time, Ramsamy had returned to South Africa after completing studies at Carnegie College in Leeds.
"I was keeping in touch with the political movement, providing them with all kinds of information. which I think was very useful," said Ramsamy. "It was not easy, but I used surreptitious methods via the 'underground'."
Three of the four stands at Twickenham were left empty for the opening match against Oxford University as BBC Television commentator Cliff Morgan began his broadcast.
"In the long,long history of rugby football, no tour could have started quite like this one," he said.
Match schedules and venues were kept secret until the last possible moment, but throughout the tour, protesters were present inside and outside grounds. Some breached security cordons and staged "sit downs" on the field to try and disrupt play. They were dragged away by police.
On one occasion, the group nearly succeeded in hijacking the team bus.The tourists arrived at Twickenham badly shaken and lost the match which followed.
"I believe that Peter Hain and his wonderful group of protesters must be complimented and given accolades for what they have done," Ramsamy told insidethegames. "It was the precursor for what was going to happen when the South African cricket team came in 1970.’"
The cricketers were to be captained by Ali Bacher but included new star batsman Barry Richards and all-rounder Mike Procter. In 1969-1970 they inflicted a heavy 4-0 series defeat on the Australians, so their visit to England was keenly anticipated.
In December 1969, the Test and County Cricket Board had met at Lord’s cricket ground and "confirmed unanimously the recommendation, that the South Africa tour would take place. In re-affirming this decision,they repeat their aversion to racial discrimination of any kind. They also respect the rights of those who wish to demonstrate peacefully."
Barbed wire was nonetheless installed at cricket grounds. Contingency plans also included artificial wickets. An original schedule of 26 matches was cut to 12 played at eight grounds. The first was at Lord’s against "Southern Counties".
At the Annual General Meeting of the influential Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the Bishop of Woolwich, better known to cricket fans as England test batsman David Sheppard, spoke up in opposition to the tour, although the club claimed a majority of members wished it to proceed.
The matter was debated at Cambridge University and later British Prime Minister Harold Wilson asked cricket authorities to make a "sporting declaration".
At Westminster, Olympic medallist and Nobel Peace prize laureate Philip Noel Baker told his fellow Parliamentarians that cancellation "will render a signal service to the cause of cricket.to the cause of international sport and to the virility and power of the Commonwealth itself".
There were threats from Africa and Asia to boycott the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
The Supreme Council for Sport in Africa set out an eight point "charge sheet" accusing the South Africa’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) and Government of being "partners in the application of racial discrimination".
The NOC "practises racial discrimination against the African and other coloured sportsmen by not allowing multi racial competitions and by failing to guarantee the equality of training facilities and installations for the practice of sport".
The IOC session, met in Amsterdam and voted 35-28 to expel South Africa.
Within a few days the cricket tour was also off.
"These protests were a great catalyst for the change that has happened," said Ramsamy. "There is no doubt that what happened also indicated to some of the supporters of apartheid that the tide was changing and moving towards the destruction of apartheid, though it took another 20 years."
In 1970, a five-match series between England and a Rest of the World team was arranged.
The World squad included five South Africans. There were also five West Indians, two Pakistanis and an Indian. Not one of them would have been permitted to play against South Africa at this time.
South Africa were banned from a range of Olympic sports, but in rugby union, the British Lions made two further tours and the 1976 visit by New Zealand’s All Blacks precipitated an extensive boycott of the Montreal Olympics by African nations.
In 1977, an agreement to discourage sporting contact was signed at Gleneagles in but there were still those who broke the embargo with unofficial "rebel" tours at the behest of the South African authorities.
South Africa did not officially return to the world sporting family until 1991, took part in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and did finally play a Test match at Lord’s in 1994, a quarter-of-a-century after the barbed wire had been erected to stop Ramsamy’s associates.
"In the past I was not even allowed to go into the Long Room, but now I was invited with no animosity at all.” he said.
International Cricket Council chairman Sir Colin Cowdrey had told him, "Now we are going to have South Africa back, thanks to you and all the anti apartheid protesters.”
Half-a-century after those tumultuous events in 1969-1970, a curiosity of the sports calendar means South Africa’s rugby triumph over England will again be followed by a cricket series in the New Year. Whatever the result,South African celebrations are guaranteed to follow it because it will be 30 years since Nelson Mandela walked free from prison.
Siya Kolisi had not yet been born.