“A partnership in the challenges facing us”- Apartheid and South African-Israeli rugby relations, c. 1948 – 1989


  • Hendrik Snyders Stellenbosch University, South Africa & National Museum Bloemfontein




South Africa, Israel, Rugby, Apartheid, Maccabi, Sport


By all accounts, South Africans played a critical role in the establishment and development of rugby in Israel from the 1950s onwards. According to the available evidence, a formal relationship between the South African Rugby Football Board and the Israel Rugby Football Union was only concluded 20 years later. Because of this friendship, various reciprocal exchange tours involving both university and provincial rugby union teams and the Israeli national team took place. In addition, between 1981- 1994, the South African Maccabean rugby team successfully participated in the Maccabean Games. Since this contact was in contravention of the international sports boycott against the apartheid state, the United Nations Committee Against Apartheid blacklisted various Israeli sports organisations and individuals at a time that Israel found itself at odds with a significant number of countries globally about the Palestinian Question. Given the international dilemmas faced by both countries as isolated and pariah states, their relations eventually extended beyond rugby. This article investigates the intersection of apartheid and Palestinian politics, rugby and the relationship between South Africa and Israel against the backdrop of increased diplomatic, military and other sanctions. It is argued that the rugby relations forged, made no direct contribution to enhance South Africa’s competitiveness within the sport arena but merely served as an additional instrument to assist in shielding both countries from total isolation. 


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How to Cite

Snyders, H. (2021). “A partnership in the challenges facing us”- Apartheid and South African-Israeli rugby relations, c. 1948 – 1989. Southern Journal for Contemporary History, 46(1), 86-106. https://doi.org/10.18820/24150509/SJCH46.v1.5