How All Blacks rose to the challenge of unleashing the haka

Before France take on New Zealand in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup the hosts will have to face the ferocious challenge laid down by the All Blacks in the haka.

“In a rugby game, if you want victory, you have to come and get it – it’s either you or us,” Dr Taku Parai, an elder from the Ngati Toa iwi Maori tribe, told AFP.

The haka is the fierce war dance which originated to prepare Maori warriors for battle and has since been adopted by the New Zealand who perform one of two versions of the haka before games.

Either, Kapa O Pango, created for the All Blacks and first performed in 2005, or the traditional Ka Mate, by far the best known.

Under New Zealand law, the Ngati Toa iwi, based in Porirua just outside Wellington, are recognised as the cultural guardians of the Ka Mate haka.


Ka Mate was composed by the warrior chief Te Rauparaha around 1820 to celebrate his escape from a rival tribe’s pursuing war party.

For New Zealanders, it is performed “as a token of deep respect, whether it is at funerals, birthdays, weddings,” Parai explains. “It’s about upholding the ‘mana’ (prestige) of an occasion.”

Yet the chest-pounding, thigh-slapping actions accompanying the Maori chant weren’t always performed by All Blacks teams with the same precision and ferocity as today.

Originally, the All Blacks only did the haka when they played overseas, sometimes with mixed results as some non-Maori players seemed unsure of the actions.

Video footage of a notoriously poor haka before a 1973 tour match in Cardiff showed few New Zealand players, aside from Maori scrum-half Sid Going, seemed to know the movements.

It wasn’t until Sir Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford made the All Blacks squad in the mid 1980s that the haka was practised and then performed with the fierce focus seen today.

Before he made the All Blacks squad in 1985, Shelford had seen previous generations of New Zealand teams struggle to perform the haka with cohesion.


On an All Blacks tour of Argentina, Shelford and fellow Maori player Hika Reid decided the haka must be performed properly or not at all. − SuperSport.


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