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The origins of the haka

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Alastair Eykyn | 10:45 UK time, Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The haka is an emotive subject, with South Africa coach Pieter de Villiers whipping up a storm in New Zealand last week when he claimed the ritual was losing its lustre. "People are becoming used to it," he said. "It's not a novelty anymore and they don't respect it."

Inevitably, the comments triggered articles in the Kiwi press featuring outraged Maori leaders, protective cultural figures and even a few disgruntled foreigners. But does De Villiers have a point?

For this week's Radio 5 live rugby programme, I spoke to a number of different people about the haka and its place in Maori culture and All Black history.

The haka can be seen as an act of intimidation before a rugby match. Photo: Getty

There are many different kinds of haka and the Maori use them for a variety of purposes. They use them to welcome people, to bid farewell to their dead, to celebrate success and to express collective pride.

The one haka recognised globally is the All Black haka: Ka Mate. This particular haka dates back over 200 years. A warrior chief named Te Raupahara composed it, having just escaped capture by a tribal rival. It was reflective of his relief and excitement at survival.

The words, "ka mate, ka mate, ka ora, ka ora" literally means "I die, I die, I live, I live." Te Raupahara became something of a heroic figure as a leader and a warrior and his haka was kept alive after his death.

The haka first became part of All Black operations in 1905 when it was adopted by "The Originals" - the first New Zealand side to tour overseas. It was performed not as a challenge in the sense we regard it now but more as pre-match entertainment.

When the All Blacks performed it in Cardiff in 1905, the Welsh responded by bursting into their anthem Land Of My Fathers.

The haka was only performed overseas until 1987. Before that it was a rather different visual experience to what we see before matches now.

Sir Wilson Whineray captained the All Blacks between 1957 and 1965. He told me it was very different then. He said: "It wasn't done very well in my day. We only had a couple of Maori boys in our side. Looking at the old footage, we just stood in the same spot and stamped our feet.

"It has evolved quite a bit and is certainly a lot more vigorous now. I look at that and think I would be exhausted at the end of it. But, wherever we went, people loved the haka. We were always asked to perform it."

The turning point in the history of the All Black haka was in the mid-1980s. Under the captaincy of Wayne 'Buck' Shelford, there was a drive to revitalise it and perform it on home soil.

Shelford said: "[All Black hooker] Hika Reid and I had a talk about it. We thought that, unless we had total buy-in from the players and management, we wouldn't do it. We did, so we thought, 'Right, let's practise it'. That was fun.

"Those pakeha [non-Maori] boys [were] stiff with no rhythm. They had to learn how to hang loose. We wondered how they were going to do the haka properly.

"With time and effort they got better. By 1987 they were pretty good at it and had learned and understood the origin of it - plus the meaning behind it. I'm proud we had the opportunity to give something back. I think it's great to advertise our culture before a game. I love to see the Kenyans doing a dance after their Sevens matches, for instance. The haka is real Kiwi, real New Zealand."

The French players (left) decided to step up and face the haka at the 2007 World Cup, just like the Irish did in 1989. Photo: Getty

Shelford was involved in one of the most memorable haka showdowns, at Lansdowne Road in 1989. The Ireland captain Willie Anderson linked arms with his team-mates and advanced on the All Blacks. He ended up nose-to-nose with Shelford.

Shelford added: "I thought it was fantastic. I spoke to Willie afterwards and he said, 'What did you think?'. I said, 'Good on you - what an awesome challenge. You responded like you meant it, some teams run away from it.'

"[Australia winger] David Campese used to run away and do his thing behind the goal-line. Some people say it's intimidating - but it's what you get out of it. The haka doesn't win us a game of rugby. Rugby wins rugby."

So what about the notion that the All Black haka is being overused, inappropriately performed, and even desecrated as an ancient ritual? Some Maori chiefs have been vocal, concerned it is losing its respect.

Recently, there have been numerous outbursts of hakas by groups of young Maori on the streets in Auckland. Some have attracted over a million viewings on the internet.
I went to see Tiki Edwards, a Maori who runs Haka World in Rotorua. It is not a theme park, merely a simple hut in a simple clearing, with two benches.

He said: "It can be intimidating, a mob of Maoris turning up unannounced. Maybe they're trying to display their culture, the ferocity of the haka?

"My view is that you should save it for when you need it most. Some of them probably need to concentrate on getting a job. But that's the way they are expressing themselves. If they are drawing on their ancestors, then fine."

"For me, it's about teaching the essence of haka. I teach lots of hakas but Ka Mate is the famous one. I teach them that I am calling on my ancestors to be with me when I need them most. I teach them where it comes from and why it's important. It's a spiritual thing and a physical thing."

Arguably rugby and the haka are the two most-recognisable faces of New Zealand. Most New Zealanders I have spoken to are content with the haka as it is - as long as there is an understanding of its origins, significance to Maoris, and a healthy respect for it.

In a rugby sense, the haka still represents a laying down of the gauntlet and challenge to the opposition. It is also great drama and entertainment and there is no doubt the theatrical side of things has been exploited in recent years.

This argument is particularly relevant when discussing the newer Kapo O Pango haka adopted by the New Zealand rugby team and performed for the first time against the Springboks in 2005.

This haka was written by a cultural expert, Derek Lardelli. The aim was to incorporate a more contemporary feel with words more specific to the New Zealand team. It was also meant to reflect the wider social and cultural elements, with an emphasis on the Pacific Island tradition.

The controversial throat-slitting gesture at the end caused a big stir. Haka experts say this motion was originally meant to signify a drawing of breath from the sky to the lungs. Perhaps it suited the All Blacks better to leave the message mixed? It is provocative at best and menacing at worst.

There's little doubt the haka will continue to stimulate debate in both a cultural and sporting context. But does it remain relevant? And is it appropriate, possibly allowing the All Blacks an unfair psychological advantage before kick-off?

Regardless of those who love it, those who hate it, and those who are indifferent, the haka is here to stay. Tiki Edwards pointed out: "The haka is a living part of a living culture. It is evolving, just like everything else around us."

For more news and discussion from the Rugby World Cup, listen to BBC Radio 5 live on Thursday, 2100-2230 BST.


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  • Comment number 1.

    That's clearly not 2011 vs. France. That is, unless, amongst others Dominici, Chabal, Rodney So'oialo and Rokocoko were drafted in for the picture unbeknownst to everyone else.

  • Comment number 2.

    Love the Haka, but do believe that it gives New Zealand a phsycological advantage just before kick off and in the first few minutes of the game. At this point you could already be 14-0 down!

    I think the opposition should have the right to either wait in the changing rooms until its finished or be able to confront it, Richard Cockerillesque.

  • Comment number 3.

    Love the Haka but am disgusted with All Black's arrogance and IRB pandering whereby teams have to stand still on a line and take the challenge without being able respond. I'm a Prop and I love the physical challenges of the game and I relish my one to one battles. Bring back days of old where Cockerill would stand toe to toe with Norm Hewitt or the Welsh would refuse to withdraw after the Haka.

    Love it, but want to see it stay and be challenged back. The theatre is also part of Rugby culture but the IRB are killing the atmosphere. Shame on you, IRB!

  • Comment number 4.

    Find it ironic it has been used by a team largely consisting of players of anglo-saxon/celtic descent - should be the preserve of the nz maori team.

    Perhaps the Aussies should adopt an aboriginal dance prior to the game?

  • Comment number 5.

    I think Brian Moore said it best - if you're intimidated by the haka, and if you let the All Blacks get a psychological advantage from it, then you have no business playing international rugby.

    1Prop75 - it's the IRB that have that rule not the All Blacks. I watched a doco on it all recently, they have no problem with someone confronting the haka, or responding. Just like Munster did back a couple of years.

  • Comment number 6.

    I love the Haka, totally agree its overused though - possibly something that should only be used on home soil? I also agree that a team should have the choice whether to watch it or not - I don't buy the "respect" argument, they do that at the end of the game by shaking hands.

  • Comment number 7.

    The real question about the Haka is does it give the All Blacks a competitive edge that their opponents do not get because they are not allowed to respond?
    Campese had the right attitude, ignore it. But now Rugby authorities demand that the opposing team stand on their 10m line (no closer allowed) and face it. This came about because of the actions of the Irish and others who felt forced to show they were not being intimidated. Teams should not be put into such situations just before a match begins.
    When Clive Woodward managed the British Lions he consulted a Maori expert on a suitable response and that is why Brian O'Driscoll stood in front of his team and accepted the challenge by throwing a piece of grass. So insulted were the All Blacks that minutes into the game they took out their umbrage on O'Driscoll by picking him up and throwing him headfirst onto the ground and injuring him so that he was out of the game. That is when the IRB should have stopped it. But the influence of the NZFRU is such that they always get their own way. If it is used as a crowd pleasing entertainment only then let them do it before the national anthems so that whatever advantage it gives them has time to dissipate and stop forcing opponents to stand there like dummies and watch it.

  • Comment number 8.

    That picture is from the 2007 World Cup, whoever typed this blog up.

  • Comment number 9.

    The way things are going - Tuilangi, Hape etc - England are going to need to develop their own haka before long. Perhaps it could be called Haka-do? :-)

  • Comment number 10.

    I didn't really mind one way or the other about the haka until the All Blacks incorporated a throat slit gesture, which they did for at least one match, against S. Africa. That hardly has any place in sports or anywhere else in modern society.

    If I was the captain of the other team, the last thing I'd do is line up my team to face the haka. The All Blacks do it before every match, they're used to it, maybe it helps them. The opponents aren't used to it, maybe it puts a player off his game, or distracts him from the opening few minutes of the game. I'd hand out newspapers and have my team read those, or do something else to show NZ how unconcerned we were by it.

    Have to agree with the comment above - it would be one thing if the team was all or mostly Maori players. As it is, it's the sporting equivalent of middle class suburban males trying to act like ganga rappers.

  • Comment number 11.

    I love watching the HAKA before a match and still remember the first time I saw the Ka Mate it affected me in a particular made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!

    But all this nonsense about teams having to stand on the 10m line and not respond is bloody ridiculous! It is seen as a challenge and now other teams are not being allowed to respond. If I was facing it I'd want to respond, maybe not like Cockerill, but at least be able to walk forwards as a team and show you aren't afraid.

    If it carries on this way then sooner or later many teams will decide to not let the All Blacks perform it before the match. It is not a sign of disrespect to respond to it, rather it is an exceptance of the other teams culture and acknowledgement of the challenge.

    All these people getting precious over people responding to it need to get over themselves and either

    Allow a response to take place
    drop the HAKA.

    Personnally I hope they do the former, because the latter would be a loss of rugby's herritage.

  • Comment number 12.

    The memorable Haka's depend upon the reaction of the opposition, was at the MS when Wales refused to budge out of line after the Haka, and so did the AB's out of their end-of-Haka position, never seenm a ref look so worried about starting or failing to start a game. Also remeber the France/NZ WC quarter final and Chabal just looking down at a fired up Byron Kellaher.......brilliant rugby theatre and a refusal to be intimidated

    Question can you make the AB's perform the Haka before the anthems to dismiss any psychological edge

  • Comment number 13.


    Not all allblacks and NZers are ok with people facing it, remember Ma'a Nonu having a moan after Wales stared them down?

  • Comment number 14.

    I think the haka is a very special specticle which should be cherished. I feel the opposing team should have the right to respond how they wish and not be dictated to by IRB rules. I'm sure the All Blacks have no problem with that. The image of Cockerill/Hewitt, the Welsh team not backing down really adds to the drama of the game and that's why we are talking about it now.

    I've been lucky enough to play on a rugby tour to New Zealand and we had the haka performed to us before a match. I felt truely honoured to be in that position as not many people can say they have stood in front of the haka on the rugby field. I don't think it gave our opposition a pyshological advantage as we were just as much up for the game after that privilege.

  • Comment number 15.

    As a Kiwi in UK the Haka discussion is always emotive on both sides. With NZers getting defensive with those who understand the Haka very little. Unfortunately this debate will continue.

    From a Rugby perspective I remember when playing for a South Auckland Highschool 20 years ago that several schools in the area used to perform a Haka before the game and then the supporters on the sideline during the game would do so periodically as well! at the time I thought it was great, and remember facing a Haka was something we looked forward to as a motivator for us as much as those performing it.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    I love the haka and I think its great for the sport. For non rugby fans to watch the all blacks doing the haka must look crazy and will certainly trigger more interest in the sport.

    However I dont think the opposition should have to stand there like statues and watch it. I think they should be allowed wait in the changing rooms or be down the other end of the pitch having a huddle!

    This is giving the all blacks an advantage straight away! Although apparently not in World Cups :)

  • Comment number 18.

    Munstermash07 - you didn't read my comment properly then. I KNOW it's the IRB. AB's are petty over it though and did take the hump over Wales, however.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'd quite like to see the English respond with a kind of camp, "Oohh, I'll scratch yer eyes out" version, complete with hand-bags made of old rugby balls. Monty Python got close to it with a great sketch about a camp squad of army recruits doing drill.

    I think the HAKA is great. Seem to recall Brian Moore once disrespecting it, or at least counter-acting its efficacy with a silly gesture.

    Interesting blog. Thanks.

  • Comment number 20.

    The Rugby League teams haka seems more authentic to me but maybe because it isn't as famous as the Union one or because as other posters have said there are a larger number of Polynesian and Maori players in the League team.
    I have no problem with New Zealand doing it and I enjoyed seeing a zulu warrior accepting the challenge with his own chant in one of the Tri Nations matches with the Boks a few years back. They seemed to have stopped that though now.

  • Comment number 21.

    Love the Haka but I think most non-kiwis really started to take exception when the AB's refused to do it on the field in Cardiff after the Welsh said that their anthem should be played after it was performed.

  • Comment number 22.

    I like the Haka and I like that it represents a part of Maori, and New Zealand, cultural heritage. I agree that teams should be allowed to respond however they wish; if the NZ rugby board don't like it then they can easily stop performing it.

    To go one step further I think maybe sme other nations should adopt cultural rituals before the game by way of response to the Haka. I mean, can you imagine anything more deflating for a pumped up, adrenaline fuelled All Black post Haka than having to stand and respectfully observe the England team performing a Morris dance? It would be amazing!!

    Come on boys, bring out them bells!

  • Comment number 23.

    The Haka now is the old Haka. But instead of being a piece of rare and eagerly awaited entertainment, the new Haka seems pumped up with steroids, dietary supplements, dumb macho theatre, with a hefty pinch of bogus over-marketed symbolism. In fact, a perfect metaphor for the modern international rugby union game.

    The idea of the "challenge" has been taken to unseemly extremes with all the throat slitting actions. It's more like some nihilistic urban gang shouting abuse at its rivals...what would the AB's think if the opposition suddenly produced baseball bats? It seems to have reached that pitch.

    Then mix in its omnipresence. The rare treat seen on tour is now performed, with camp choreography, at every opportunity. How long before we see a Haka a half-time? Then factor in all the bogus "offence" taking. To stare is offensive. To ignore it is offensive. To do anything is the extent that teams are starting to do the equivalent of saying "we're warming up...lets us know when you've finished your little dance!"...hence the NZRB's latest squawkings about "disrespect". Again, it sounds a bit needy!

    Perhaps though the Haka could be enhanced further with the addition of even more symbolic choreography.

    - The "leader" should adopt the traditional "ahfside" position just ahead of his warriors.

    - As the leader strides menacingly about, two warriors should always be just ahead of him to ensure that he cannot be tackled by an enemy tribe!

    - The warriors should pass the traditional "Conch of Power" to the leader, so that he is able to speak. According to tradition, this must be passed slightly forward at all times.

    - The Great Judge who sees No Evil should symbolically wave play on at all times.

    .....agggh you could go on for ages. This Haka stuff does the rounds every few years. It's just a bit of lazy journalism designed to inflame jaded readers. I don't really care about the Haka. It just makes me laugh. GBH wrapped up in PC and New-Age overtones!

  • Comment number 24.

    wow...this blog has really got under Anglophone skin...relax and take 10 deep out.

  • Comment number 25.

    I also have had the pleasure of playing againsed a touring NZ team and they did the Haka before the kick off and it was amazing to be part of rugby heratige and an honnor to be there. I acually whispered to my mate who was a back rower, "i think my opposite number may eat me"
    To stop this would be daft, its a tradition that has been around for as long as i have watched/played rugby.

  • Comment number 26.

    Why don't England players perform some Morris Dancing?
    That would scare the bejesus out of their opponents............!

  • Comment number 27.

    I have always thought the Scots could do a highland charge in response to the kiwis.

    Not sure the IRB would allow the older version of the tradition where one person from the battle line steps forward and colourfully insults an opposite number unfortunately...

    ...having said that it would give the English something to do as they do not have a reasonably marketable warrior traditional act unlike the rest of the home nations!

  • Comment number 28.

    Englands version of the haka could be where they invade the oppositions side of the pitch and then make them all speak English and then give out when the opposition follow them back on to their side of the pitch :)

  • Comment number 29.

    I think its a great spectacle and an established Rugby tradition. Long may it continue. BUT...

    Someone correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't one of the origional and key uses of a haka, as a challenge before battle? International rugby is a battle between teams and therefore the opposition should be allowed by the IRB to react to the challenge as desired. Man/Woman up (do the White Ferns perform a haka?) and face the challenge head on. If that's from 10m back then fine. If its 2m away thats fine. If you want to front up nose to nose even better. Campese was a coward!

  • Comment number 30.

    At the very least, to keep it significant to the old chief, it should be done at the end of the game and not at all if they have lost.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    I loved the comment about how the haka used to be. If anyone wants a laugh, just search on YT for the haka they did before that famous All Blacks Barbarians encounter in 1973. It looked more like the hokey pokey than a war dance.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    It has become increasingly theatrical in recent years, thats why I couldn't understand the Maori reaction to the Welsh staring out contest a few seasons ago, which was a brilliant spectacle. The old throat slitting was a bit ott last weekend, but looks much better now than back in the day, when it was a few middle-sized white men with 1950's haircuts doing what looked distinctly like a morris dance!!Yep not sure that is the 2011 shot either, unless the french and NZ were doing a quickchange act!

  • Comment number 35.

    @ 31

    I would call any man or woman who walks away from a direct challenge like that a coward, regardless of the number of tests. It's suppossed to be a hard game played by hard people. Anyone who thinks that the response from the ABs to his actions was anything other than getting a bit angry isn't giving the players the credit they deserve.

    I'm not fortunate to have been good enough to have ever face the AB's but did play many years ago against a touring NZ school side as a 16 year old. They performed a haka and we fronted up on the half way line. To do anything else would have shown weakness. If I remember right they stuffed us by over 60 points but I doubt that had anything to do with us facing their pre-game challenge.

    Oh and before calling someone a moron learn the difference between your and you're. Tends to diminish the strength of your argument if you spell the first word of your post wrong.

  • Comment number 36.

    Israel Dagg looks more like a crew member from Fame Academy/Glee in that top shot!! Ma'a Nonu now that how's it done!

  • Comment number 37.

    Just found that video you mentioned Jules, hilarious!

    Please just check out this video of the haka in 1973, it's only 25 seconds long you will not regret it.

  • Comment number 38.

    "...having said that it would give the English something to do as they do not have a reasonably marketable warrior traditional act unlike the rest of the home nations!"

    True...all our traditional stuff tends to be about drinking and fertility...which gets my vote every time over dying in battle and whining about supposed injustices. You can keep your marketable warrior's still amazing though how we ended up with all the money and the best land isn't it? ;-) Just a thought!

    I think that an English haka would involve going into the oppositions half and forcing them to build a complicated railway system;-)

  • Comment number 39.

    I think an appropriate repsonse for the English would be a spot of Morris-dancing. That would probably scare the living daylights out of them...

  • Comment number 40.

    i like the comic affect of the haka.especially ali williams,he gets well into it.although to be honest I don't really understand why you'd be intimidated by it.22 men stamping their feet on the ground does not make scarry.
    not happy that the all blacks went crying like little babies to the IRB about their war dance.teams should be able to respond to it,either by ignoring it,or like the welsh did by refusing to move till they did or when england got right up in their faces.if the all blacks don't like that then only perform it at home

  • Comment number 41.

    @ 35

    So doing anything other than what you have been told is the correct thing by upbringing is showing weakness is it? The Ka Mate is not even a challenge Haka. Just because it is used that way, incorrectly, by the AB's does not make any difference.

    Calling a legend of the game a coward because he did not react the way you would is both ignorant and arrogant

  • Comment number 42.

    I've been saying it for years, its time we do away with this non-sense. Four or five other Pacific Islands do their own versions, but its just a waste of time.
    Doesn't improve their game, does it??

    Too much nervous energies being expended even before they start. I'd rather they play exciting rugby than performing these primitive rituals !!

  • Comment number 43.

    @1Prop75 - apologies my friend, I did misread your comments.

    There is no doubt the Kiwis can be precious about it - that whole haka in the dressing room thing was pretty dumb.

    Like some of you above I have been lucky enough to face a haka back in my schoolboy days. Unbelievable! It gave all of us facing it such a jolt of electricity - it got us as much up for the match as the lads performing it.

  • Comment number 44.

    In 1928, my Grandfather and name sake played for the Springboks against the All Blacks. The most impressive resonance in terms of the great game being a gentlemen’s sport is the Silver Fern (pin-on), which was given to my grandfather at the post match dinner.
    At the first test, the springbok team included as a gesture to rival the well know Haka. It came in the form of a Zulu warrior in full glory with loin cloth, shield and assegai. The Bok’s too did a bit if a dance but nothing like the Zulu tribesman could muster, and it was all received in good spirit by the All Blacks.
    If the All Blacks of old, were able to be good sports about this sort of challenge, why should it be any different now? What gives one nation the right to have certain privileges, in gaining a psychological advantage, and others not.
    Let’s not pretend it is anything other than an advantage over opponents!
    When one team (NZ) is told they can perform an intimidating sequence of movements and noises, and another (everyone else) is told to stand still, in place and look, but don’t react with a similar or equal challenge…seriously who are the IRB trying to kid!

  • Comment number 45.

    I was very, very lucky to play an NZ schools side and they performed their own haka. The effect it had on us was to draw us out, it brought us to the challenge, it made us a part of the game. As for being made to stand behind the 10 meter line? Is that really true? I feel it is appropriate to stand up to the haka as a team. Rugby is a team sport and rugby teams bond like no other sport bonds teams. The haka is a display of unity and a team facing it, linked arm in arm, is an equal display of unity.

    Other teams don't need their own version of it unless it's already part of their heritage. I still watch the NZ Tonga game from the 2003 WC where they both did their respective hakas in unison. Spine tingling.

    My advice. Grow up and enjoy it for the spectacle it is.

  • Comment number 46.

    I think the Scots should be allowed to play in kilts as their tradition. At the first ruck some certain age-old questions will be answered.

  • Comment number 47.

    We English could take a pint of real ale on, the Welsh can bring a flock of sheep and the Australians could all wear chains!

  • Comment number 48.

    You may need to broaden your perspective on the issue here. The haka is actually the Maori version of a very Polynesian tradition, shared by all Polynesians - that of challenging the opposition while psyching up your own before trying to subdue another tribe. That is why Fijians (cibi), Samoans (siva tau) and Tongans (sipitau) have it too but you can be sure that if other Polynesians were into rugby (e.g. Hawaians, Tahitians, Tokelauans, etc), they will have added their own versions to the pre-match ritual. Of course, it's the Maoris' haka as performed by the men in black which has attracted so much attention to the ritual but that is no excuse for overlooking its quintessentially Polynesian root.

  • Comment number 49.

    Seems to me that an absolutely awesome response would be the one the Scots used before their battle against the English in the movie Braveheart.

  • Comment number 50.

    Maybe one reason the All Blacks don't like anybody to throw down a challenge to the Haka these days is that they don't want anybody copying the Cook Islands

  • Comment number 51.

    I am an Aussie and I hope we can win the Rugby World Cup 2011.
    And yet I know deep, deep down in my heart and soul that the Kiwis are my dearest and closest brothers.
    I think back specifically to those brave and gallant New Zealanders in the Tunisia campaign in WWII.
    My God, what bravery, what elan, what ferocity against the enemy!
    So fight on my brave Kiwi brothers.
    Your Haka is superb.
    Just don't be victorious against my own Aussies.
    Please : )

  • Comment number 52.

    To be fair, it does give the stronger sides the chance to face it down, even if that is just standing right up there, refusing to be blown away by it. It can have a quite powerful positive effect on the opposition if they can shoot it down.

  • Comment number 53.

    On a side note the Scott fans have been banned from bringing pipes into the stadium... by the NZRB: It seems the only tradition allowed are the Southern Pacific ones!

    I don't mind the Haka but it seems a bit unfair that teams are forced to behave in a specific way.

  • Comment number 54.

    Clearly the Haka is now a challenge to the opposition otherwise they could perform it to the crowd as the 1973 Kiwis did, and it's also good entertainment. As a result the opposition should applaud it on completion and congratulate them on a job well done.

  • Comment number 55.

    You cannot take a psychological advantage from your adversary, but they can give you one if they choose. Doing the Haka is great statement of identity. Being Irish and Identifying with my 'Celtic' roots, I always wish we had something like the haka that would set us apart. We can't even agree on what anthem to sing before a match. However I would say this. If the all blacks are allowed to do a Haka which is their right, then the opposition should be allowed go nose to nose with them. They are at this world cup obliged to stay 15meters away from the Haka. There is nothing to stop any team calling on their ancestors to help them win and nothing to stop the opposition ignoring them.

  • Comment number 56.

    Isn't it amazing how a comment passed by a cultural luddite who is scared of defeat, and is now trying to preempt his teams demise by priming excuses ready to be made, can be picked up by a lazy reporter and turned into a sensational article that can illicit so many responses!
    The simple fact is that all polynesian teams have a version of the Haka, so should they all be stopped? No, it seems that De Villiers comments were oly aimed at the team that is most likely to beat his own team. That reaks of bad sportsmanship. The Haka is a challenge, to "beat us if you can but in any case give is a dam good fight in trying" so instead of being rude and insulting, why could the cultural luddite not come up with a challenge of his own as a response to the all blacks challenge? Could it be... Laziness? Ignorance? Cowardice? Or perhaps just oportunism in making sure that he had an excuse primed for when and if his team lost!
    Any team has the right to respond with a challenge as long as it is done with respect and dignity and the game that ensues is a dam good one!

  • Comment number 57.

    Wales should bring a fiery Chapel preacher to brandish a large cross and deliver a sermon instructing them to turn from pagan wickedness or burn in the fires of hell for eternity

    Then offer tin plate objects and beads in return for all the territory up to the 22

  • Comment number 58.

    Along with intimidating the opponents, the Haka probably helps the All Blacks to get into game mode. Pretty important.

  • Comment number 59.

    I'm not against what the haka represents or means to whoever performs it, but for me, it has no part in a sporting environment. Why should one team be allowed to perform something which clearly gives them a psychological advantage going into the immediate match ahead? And why are people ridiculed when they oppose it in some form (the famous wales face off, france in 97, de Villiers recently)?

    For me, it either shouldn't happen at all, or 'anything goes' in terms of response from the opposition.

  • Comment number 60.

    Should England play Kiwis (it's possible!!), i'm fancying Johnno to do what he did in Ireland way back (as capt)....keep the boys in the changing room....until after they've finished the Haka..!!

  • Comment number 61.

    Why are many of you feeling the need to say the photo above is not from the recent group game when it clearly says underneath that its from the 2007 quarterfinal ?? As for many of the other comments, geez!!! especially the one stating that O'Driscol was dropped on his head for accepting the Haka by throwing a piece of grass!! I grew up being told to stand on my school desk by my teacher and perform our local haka every morning for 12 years, reading many of the comments on here takes me back to what the girls in my class use to say about having to stand in front of their desk twirling a poi !!!.

  • Comment number 62.

    The haka - and the other Pacific Island versions - is what makes rugby stand out from other sports. Long may it last - and I usually switch off when Pieter de Villiers talks anyway.

  • Comment number 63.

    Good article

    Certainly, Peter de Villiers is correct. If you see the haka performed more often, it does lose its novelty status. However, he is not saying it should be stopped.

    Bill, I think you are letting your emotions read too much into this. Such strong words used to describe the 'luddite' will impress him I'm sure.

    And Bill, if you know anything about Springbok Rugby you will know that they respect all teams, but fear none!

  • Comment number 64.

    One thing that people often overlook is that, as the opposition are standing there shivering and freezing up, the ABs are going through an excellently designed warm-up routine that exercises every major part of the body.

    No wonder they start games fast.

  • Comment number 65.


    Bill I think the issue is that apparently by IRB decree those facing the challenge are not allow to respond with any movement. No how people have sourced this information is beyond me.

    As a kiwi I like the Haka but if it is true that it cannot be responded to that is a farce and will only lead to more and more calls to stop it. Which in turn will be misused by the press as racist......I see the train a comming :(

  • Comment number 66.

    I love the Haka and went to see Shelford and co against BarBars (I think 1989-90).

    1Prop75 - makes the point very well and the arrogance of NZ organisers has not been helped with the banning of Bagpipes, et al. either. Hope the All Blacks do give us a memorable display of Rugby, but if you don´t win this will not go down as a great WC, from either inside or outside the country.

  • Comment number 67.

    I remember the 1953 Haka at the Arms Park when both Wales and Cardiff last beat them. Inspiring but yes much more static - and of course a huge novelty.

    By the way both teams beat the AB's via constant pressure and hard tackling...gave them no time to think.

  • Comment number 68.

    Best land Anglo, you need to get out and see the world! Oh and when I left ol Blighty, all that money was now called debt :)

    As for the Haka, besides Nonu (who probably wishes he had that moment again), the All Blacks and NZRU don't have a problem with any kind of response the opposition sees fit to do. It's the IRB who has made this 10m rule.

    The Haka is a tradition but it's also part of the performance. Rugby is professional and requires this type of entertainment. If NZ, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa chose to not perform their Haka's then it would only be the spectator who missed out and I dare say it'll only be the spectator who is disappointed.

    Damned if we do and damned if we don't!

    As for creating an advantage, the Springboks, Australians and France don't seem to mind so much... or perhaps there is a reason for that :)

  • Comment number 69.

    #50 Matt74

    I believe you're wrong, Munster v All Blacks

    The mid week game against Munster, Rua Tipoki and three others including Doug Howlett ex AB, returned the challenge to the ABs in the form of their own haka. To this day that stands as one of my most memorable sights in rugby, a group of FOUR challenging the ABs. The Munster men that day magnificent, they were unable to field their top players, but by crikey, did they give to the ABs and were only just pipped in the final minutes.

    But I know this for a fact that Rua called home first and asked the old people what they thought. He was told if Munster are happy for you to perform it (and they were), and the ABs know it's coming (and they were); do it. The haka is not owned by ABs.

  • Comment number 70.

    Have to laugh at Greg Warner and the Anzac Gallipolli campaign and your Aussie/Nz brotherhood because of it. Do you think Australia/NZ are the only countries that have ever been to war. To all the weeping aussies I saw at gallipolli a few years back at least half of them were the children of 1960's immigrants who had no link to the largely anglo-saxon 2 million or so people that resided in Australia at the turn of the century...

  • Comment number 71.

    I don't care too much what they get up to but I do object to the fact that the All Blacks can get so precious about their little dance.

    After the brutal assault on O'Driscoll in the first Lions test down there in 2005, some NZ rugby people were claiming that it was prompted by AB anger at the way he stepped up to face the haka! And I half recall that Wales requested the right to respond to the haka in a game at Cardiff quite recently (I think by singing the anthem after the haka); that the ABs refused, claiming that the haka should always go after the anthems; the Welsh refused to back down, and the ABs did the haka in the dressing room. (Have I remembered that right ?)

    If they do insist on doing it, I think Buck Shelford's attitude is the right one, as the confrontations are great entertainment. I loved the French putting CaveMan Chabal at the centre of their line in 2007 (even though he was 'only' a sub); and Cockerill in 1997 was priceless too.

    And I also think they should have to choose: haka or anthem, not both.

  • Comment number 72.

    I do find all this " ABs and New Zealanders do not take offense if the Haka is challenged" as fanciful at best and downright poppycock at worst.

    Whenever the Haka is challenged here or away the NZ press are full of "so and so disrespected the ABs and the Haka' to try and pretend anything else is just that a pretense. We are far too selective and precious about the Haka and yes it is performed way too much..swimmers for mercy's sake!!!!

  • Comment number 73.


    What being born in the 60s has anything to do with remembering the sacrifice that two generations of Kiwis/and Aussies and yes the home countries made is beyond me mate.

    We all know what war does to the young of every country what you don’t appear to understand is that for Kiwis and Aussie those number in % terms of populations were huge.

    Pull your head in this is a Rugby forum

  • Comment number 74.

    Greg Warner

    It is true that the NZ forces did the Haka in the Western Desert before battle and the Maori Battalion at the funerals of their comrades.

    Your comments were most interesting.

    Kia kaha.

  • Comment number 75.

    Endchedder, the year prior to the Haka in the sheds business, NZ and Wales celebrated their 100 year anniversary and as a one off, agreed to change the Haka- anthem format to mirror that of 100 years ago. This was agreed as a one-off change to mark 100 years. The next year the WRU tried to do the same again and NZRU disagreed which led to the changing shed Haka. A little petty by all parties, it was only the fans who missed out.

    As for O'Driscoll, read

  • Comment number 76.

    WanakaXV, in % terms of population the so called "home countries" loss was greater.
    No country gave more than they could sustain. Having said that, the sacrifices were huge for all concerned and should never be forgotten. But lets just remember and try to learn rather than all this breast beating and wailing

    As for the "Haka", I do feel it's the right of NZ to perform it, but I think it should only be done on home soil, as the traditions of the home team are always to the fore.

    As for the "respect" argument which is always mentioned, that's a two way street.
    I well remember NZ v Samoa when NZ were performing their Haka, Samoa started theirs. When NZ finished theirs they just walked away, clearly a bit miffed, not facing Samoa who were still performing. Shoe a bit on the other foot I feel.

    I have to say I rather preferred the Samoan one.

    The IRB are just foolish........making a rule about facing or not.....utter rubbish!

    Anglophone; of all the posts I've read, yours truly made me laugh! I don't think "James" gets you though. Keep em coming!

  • Comment number 77.

    WanakaXV you misunderstand me, I'm not anti rememberance at all and in terms of percentage losses nobody suffered more than the turks and the serbs who lost about 15% of their populations in WW1. I thing rhe russians lost 40 million in WW2. I just get a bit wond up when nations talk about their relative bravery on the battlefield, relative to anyone else's sacrifice. Facts are us mollycoddled Westerners are probably not half as brave as we make out these days, compared say to your modern day Afghani or Libyan...

  • Comment number 78.


    Actually I never said the "home countries" loss was smaller

    Having said that that was not my point the fact of the Matter is that NZers and Aussie commemorate Gallipoli as they do and being born in the 60s has nothing to do with that.

    It was a cheap shot by EW.....not really sure why he said it!!

  • Comment number 79.


    As I said I am not sure why you even said what you said .......lets leave it at that aye?

  • Comment number 80.

    Wish the England team would respond with "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" complete with hand gestures...

    Things might get tasty when they sing/sign "coming for to carry me home..."

  • Comment number 81.

    My this is all getting a bit serious......

    Liked the link to Tana's extracts - a bit like asking the accused what happened and then saying well, that'll be that then - not quite how justice goes....

    The funniest part was how he'll do anything to get into an opponents mind but its just not reasonable when others do it to him......

    Anyway as to the Haka....

    It is getting a tad boring now - didn't actually know that the opposition had to just stand and take it....... Not sure thats Tana's way!!!!!

    I'd much rather be able to respond as i see fit - the Campo way sounds fine as does Cockerill and the Wesh - quite simply if your going to do something designed to be provicative expect a reaction and as I'm sure Tana would say - get on with it......

    Or perhaps not as he does not appear to like it when the tables are turned.

  • Comment number 82.


    On John Beattie's blog you finished by saying no one had convinced you that Contepomi was offside - fairly certain I've seen Contepomi say he was himself - would you take the word of the accused that he did it as proof?

    Not that it changes anything you understand.

  • Comment number 83.

    I'd just like to point out that it isn't JUST New Zealand that have a form of Haka. Samoa, Tonga & Fiji have one too.

    If you complain about losing a match due to the opposition doing a Haka then you're really not up to an international standard.

    I'd love for the All Whites to do one. It'd bring back some real oomph to the game. We don't need 25yo men rolling around on the ground like a bunch of girls.

  • Comment number 84.

    I think the thing with the haka these days is that we see so much of it, its almost become old hat.
    20 years ago New Zealand did not come to these shores as often as they do now, and it was also virtually impossible to see any NZ games which were played outside of this country. So back then it was a somewhat rare and exciting spectacle to see.
    I used to really like the haka, but these days it just seems a tad over the top and the whole respect/disrespect thing is getting pretty tiresome.
    Its a bit like the anthems, your own country gets you stirred up, where as the oppositions anthem, whilst respected is somewhat meaningless to yourself.

  • Comment number 85.

    Sorry WanakaXV

    Don't want to drag this down to who's loss of life was the more important etc, but you did say that in % terms the ANZAC loss was huge. I merely tried to point out that in % terms it wasn't a bad as other nations.

    I agree, it was huge nevertheless. "Lions lead by donkey's" I think is the accepted term.

    Peace out.

  • Comment number 86.

    Come on Notme, don't let your bias get in the way of a good post.

    From my take of the extract Umaga was putting his side of the story across. Because it clearly didn't align with the conspiracy theories mooted by the Lions spin doctors at the time doesn't make it fact nor fiction. It's an opinion old bean.

    I didn't quite find the bit you referred to where "he does not appear to like it when the tables are turned" but as I said don't let your bias get in the way of a good blog post.

    Tana Umaga (as many disgruntled Lions fans conveniently forget) received an award for protecting Colin Charvis when he was injured a season or two before the O'Driscoll incident. Hardly the actions of a reckless thug.

    What happened to BOD was awful for him, the Lions & rugby but it's part of the game & call it careless, reckless or dangerous it was deemed accidental & that's where it should end.

    Going on about it makes you look petty.

  • Comment number 87.

    An Australian perspective:

    I think the haka is truly one of the greatest things in sport.

    It has become not only a brand-stamp of the All Blacks team but a uniquely significant feature of the game of rugby. I say this despite NZ (along with the poms) being our biggest rivals. The sheer dominance of the All Blacks in the sport has meant that NZ have become custodians of the haka, despite it also having cultural significance for many Pacific nations (Samoa, Tonga, Fiji etc).

    What I DON'T agree with is some expectation that teams (and the crowd) should stand by quietly while a visiting All Black side perform it ferociously on foreign soil. It is a challenge and should not be received meekly at any time, let alone when the ABs are playing away from their home grounds. I loved it when the Welsh and the English crowds drowned out the haka with their own songs - it should advantage NZ at home but never anywhere else. I suspect non-NZ crowds (Australia included) enjoy it so much that they want to listen to it but I believe that sends the wrong message, to the visiting AB players and to ours.

    All that said, long may it continue.

  • Comment number 88.

    What about the English team doing a traditional Morris Dance with bells an all that as a reply to the Haka .... and infact before every match. keep English traditions alive!!!

  • Comment number 89.


    Yes I read one of the articles but does he say he was offside or that Barnes's back was toward him so he took the chance. Anyway do tyou ink

    A) as an old pro he would say that

    B) could he see the scrum halts hands......

    So from the replays I think he was on side and so did the three refs....and as the old adage says ..."look in the paper"

  • Comment number 90.

    sorry fingers got caught up should have read Anyway do you think :(

  • Comment number 91.

    As an Ex pat living in NZ for the past seven years, I can say that the Haka is not just assigned to Rugby. To stand beside a group doing a Haka at a Funeral, at a Marae's Powhiri or at someone's leaving is one of the most moving and trembling things I have ever witnessed. It is truly awe inspiring to witness and to stand before, something which is never felt on the wide screen. In Rugby, the All Blacks are judged not only on their performance in a game but on their haka before a match. We can tell if they are in the mood to win by how much mana is shown in their Haka.

    The outside world has seen a tiny piece of Maori culture, but to witness it first hand is, as Devillters has said, truly inspirational.

  • Comment number 92.

    i think that England should respond to the Haka with a Morris dance

  • Comment number 93.

    My thoughts on the Haka is that it is a challange and when th All Blacks are on foreign soil they are the challengers so they should not be aloud to do it, Simple.
    The people love to see it and its good entertainment but to much time is wasted on it and the rugby is supposed to be the entertainment, go to Rotarua if you want to see some maoris dancing and singing.
    I also think it does give the All Blacks an edge for the start of the game and the only time a team should have to acknowledge it is when they are playing NZ on there turf.
    If the All Blacks want to have a little dance before the game let them but a team should not have to watch it on there own turf.
    And as one guy pointed out, most of them are from Celtic and polynesian desent, leave the Haka to the Maori team and the sliting of the throat is just wrong, although the SAs do deserve it.
    I am a kiwi and proud of it but I think its 2 faced of the maoris and the All blacks to do a challange on foreign soil when they are the challengers and yet when people who are famous imitate it, they get upset.

  • Comment number 94.

    FWIW I'm with the people who say that equity is the important thing: opposition teams should be able to take/respond to the haka as they see fit, including the freedom to do their own dance. It is incredibly presumptious of the NZRU to think they can dictate what should happen before a match, especially away from home, e.g. at Cardiff in recent years.

    As far AB supporters are concerned, I've always found a few choruses of "Humpety Dumpety" gets things warmed up nicely. Surely New Zealanders should respect that?

  • Comment number 95.

    Bassman Chris, we English already have our own version of the haka. It's called Morris dancing! Perhaps the England forwards could do that before a game. The opposition would still be rolling over laughing at half time, giving England an advantage. But on a more obvious note why should any other country stand still to respect the haka? On NZ land maybe, but in their own back yard? They respect the national anthem & that should be it. I can remember Aussies going face to face with Kiwis in the past or turning their backs. Rugby is a mans game so face the Kiwis & show them the haka is nothing other than a ceremonial dance.

  • Comment number 96.


    Fairly certain he says here he was offside - also that Barnes wasn't looking - perhaps he should have been - and that he thought being Captain helped......

    However - it changes nothing - he took a chance and was allowed to get away with it by whoever......

    So, moving on to the biggest game of the 2011RWC so far - the Auld enemy in neutral territory for the first time....

  • Comment number 97.

    Dave im not letting emotions get in the way of a good argument, it seems to me that De Villiers has chosen his timing (notably the middle of a WORLD CUP TOURNAMENT) to make a comment that anyone with any sense of decency would accept is controversial and contrary to the spirit of the tournament. The only reason i can see for this is to preempt failure and therefore prime excuses.
    Personally I agree with the other posters who are saying that any country should be allowed to perform a challenge before an international match. I personally would love to see the English Morris dancing before a match! Similarly the Scots could perform a Jig. Rugby is a professional sport and needs to attract audiences, and of course we need also to be respectful to each other. Debate is good, criticism is good... at the right time!

  • Comment number 98.


    I didn't bring Tana into the debate.

    Merely liked the way the tone of the piece went from - well, O'driscoll got hurt, it was an accident, I didn't realise there were 2 of us trying to pick him up and turn him over (presumably he felt he was strong enough to do that all by himself...) so lets just get on with it.....

    To - those nasty people started to have a go at me and at first it didn't bother me and then eventually I got angry and well....... you guys are just as bad - Danny Grewcock .......

    Don't you see that - he didn't like their mind games.

    I don't think I'm biased - just interpreting a piece of prose.

    Still think you should be allowed to react to the Haka any which way you like.

  • Comment number 99.

    Years ago our school rugby first team had a perfect season, unheard of. So the next season they awarded themselves the right to do the haka.

    Sorry to any appalled kiwis, but it was done for one season only and properly. The team felt they had earned it by being the best, and thus emulating the best rugby team in the world. Nobody suggested it was the wrong thing at the time.

    Scared the other schools silly.

  • Comment number 100.

    English: Morris dancing
    Irish: The River dance
    Scots: The Jig
    The French: any one of a number of French traditions!
    The Welsh: Sing as a male voice choir
    Fijians: Cibi
    Samoans: Siva tau
    Tongans: Sipitau
    South Africa: Acapella voice choir (as in LadySmith Black Mombazo)
    Aussies: One of the Aboriginal Traditions

    and New Zealand: The Haka!

    Just a suggestion.... however palatable it might be!


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