The sign stolen as a prank by a group of Springboks as they passed through Matamata is to be autographed by the South African team and auctioned for charity.

Last Friday Trac Sports Bar Matamata owner Gail Bailey chased a group of South African players down the road after they took a silver fern sign from her bar as a prank.

When Mrs Bailey caught up with the players - whom she did not recognise - she gave them a "rev up" and lectured them about stealing things.

The sheepish players returned the sign, but it has since been sent to their Taupo hotel to be autographed by the entire Bok squad.


Mrs Bailey said the New Zealand Community Trust sign would be returned tomorrow and put up for auction - probably on eBay - to raise money for Matamata's Pohlen Hospital.

"They're trying to build a new maternity wing, and have to find their own money themselves ...

"So something good's coming out of it. It's an excellent result. But I am still very embarrassed that I didn't know who [the players] were."

The sign-stealing scandal was picked up by media in South Africa and Britain, and Mrs Bailey said it had been an experience to be called "a feisty Matamata bar manager" in last Saturday's Weekend Herald.