To haka, or not to haka?

As an expression of national identity, the haka supersedes all else in New Zealand, but with many All Blacks admitting to being “haka-ed out”, has it become too commercial?

An ancient posture dance, the haka is intrinsically a challenge from one Maori tribe of one area to another. In earliest times, the local tribe would perform their haka, followed by the visiting tribe. Then came speeches, which was followed by the pressing of noses.

All Black scrum half Aaron Smith believes more people might watch the haka than the actual game: “All the men will watch the rugby, but not all the women. But both will watch the haka”.

A fact that will not have passed broadcasters and sponsors by, and with TV largely controlling the game these days, they are unlikely to even consider dropping what has become a major eyeball attractor. This despite many questioning it’s frequency.

In the book, The Jersey, by British journalist Peter Bills, ex-players raise questions over the use of the war dance as they claim it has become more about commercial exploitation than tradition.

The haka has been performed by the All Blacks for most of New Zealand’s existence as a rugby superpower, with some claiming it gives the Men in Black an unfair advantage.

In the book, both Sir Colin Meads and Kees Meeuws reveal their own frustrations about the use of the haka.

“They haka everything now,” says Meads. “Some dignitary, sports person, or film star turns up at the airport and they haka them. It is ridiculous. I think it has become a celebrity thing. All the schools practise it.

“It should be done before games, but only as a form of respect to the Maori.”

Ex tighthead prop Meeuws reckons the haka has lost its mana: “It has become a showpiece. They should do it at certain test matches but not all.

“It was good a few years ago when they (the viewing public) had a choice. But now they play 14 test matches a year, and that’s too much as far as the haka is concerned.

“We should either have it at home or just away from home like it used to be, not both.”

Current All Black head-shrinker Gilbert Enoka claims many players have come to him saying they’re “haka-ed out”.

“Would allowing the haka to become an essential ingredient in the widespread commercialisation of the game be in the interests of New Zealand culture?” questions Bills in the book?

With exclusive interviews with Richie McCaw, Steve Hansen, Beauden Barrett, Colin Meads and Dan Carter, The Jersey is the first definitive story behind the greatest sports team on the planet.

“This is a wonderful description of why the All Blacks are so good. The author’s assessment is spot on. Beautifully written”, said Nick Mallett of the book.

Veteran rugby journalist Peter Bills, was given exclusive access to key figures in New Zealand rugby as he set out to understand the secrets behind the All Blacks success. Bills spoke at length with over 90 people, both in New Zealand and around the world, with intimate knowledge of what makes the All Blacks tick.

This is a story of the first settlers, and the ‘Originals’ who forged the All Blacks legacy, right through to modern times. It draws heavily on the contributions made by all New Zealanders: players, coaches, officials, supporters and those who have worn the most recognized jersey in the world. Intrinsically, The Jersey goes to the heart of the All Blacks success. It is also an epic story of not just a rugby team but a nation, whose identities are inextricably linked. Additionally, it debates a question, terrifying for any of their opponents. Could the All Blacks get even better?

It’s a great Festive Season read, and not the worst idea as an Xmas stocking filler? CLICK HERE to buy the book.

- All Out Rugby

Let's chat

  • Barry

    Seems to be more about selling the book than debating the Haka!

    I would tend to agree with Meads, it should be kept for home tests much as we restrict The Impi crew and shield presentation to home games only!

    For the moment it is overdone, though it does present a great opportunity to freshen drinks before the game!

    • nezo

      i think its a great tool used to bring even more supporters to the game. they should do it all the time. other people end up falling in love with the game because of that initial attraction which is the haka. Karate became great that way. karate was not only about the fight but first the challenge and the responder responding. that can attract a lot of people. i think the people complaining are court up in tradition. they just want it to be done the same way it was done before. they don’t care about it being used for the better of the game. and those New Zealander players who are complaining i think they have no business sense. the haka alone is generating more money for them to be paid these large amounts they getting. they don’t even realise its a marketing tool and good for their future and present pockets.

      • Barry

        Perhaps stick to Lewis Carroll Nezo!

        Karate is a sport, the haka is not! The Haka is traditional, you’re a bit confused their, it’s not new, we’re just getting a bit sick and tired of seeing it and for that matter, so are the players performing it!

        It is a tool of intimidation – as ever New Zealanders looking for an unfair edge, so if the playing fields are to be fair and equitable then the host team should be allowed to challenge it!

        • nezo

          you failed to see all the advantages to the sport that i was pointing out. i know it can be a tool of intimidation but its also a great tool to sell/market the sport we love. if you read my comment to SweetAz you will see that i agreed that it should be challenged. and then again the article wasn’t about whether the All Blacks should stop the Haka because its intimidating their opponents or not. so your comment is out of place. about Karate i was talking about how the challenge done before the fight helped to sell/market the movies. it build up the atmosphere just like the haka.

          you should get reading skills mate. and discussion skills.

          • nezo

            i am a Bokke 100% my man. i don’t like the All Blacks too but as a rugby fan and a business man. Haka makes sense. i get your comments now. you were commenting as a Springbok fan not as a rugby fan.

            your own below line points right back at you. let me restructure it for you.

            “Seems to be more about selling the book than debating the Haka!” (Barry)

            seems to be more about the Springboks and the hate for All Blacks than debating the Articles topic. (nezo about you)

          • Barry

            Because there are none, unless your a New Zealander of course!

            We don’t want your Haka Nezo, so rather keep it in New Zealand, or where ever else you would like to put it.

            We have our own tradition of Impi warriors and that’s what we will identify with.

  • SweetAz

    The Haka irritates the crap out of me, as far as I’m concerned it should be only used in NZ. What irritates me is the expectation from World Rugby that everybody should respect it, I call BS on that. In MY culture growing up, I was taught by my parents that pulling faces and sticking your tongue out was rude and disrespectful, so for foreigners to come to your country and do that is disrespectful as far as I am concerned and should our guys wish to turn their backs and do a down trou on them I personally would find it entirely appropriate. If they want to do a Maori cultural thing in NZ it’s their prerogative, but don’t claim some cultural respect and privilege on foreign soil.

    • nezo

      i agree we should be allowed any kind of response

  • Barry

    Nezo good luck with your marketing and business endeavors, in selling the Haka to the world.

    South Africa has a proud rugby heritage so you may find it a bit of a difficult sell here. Let us know how you go, or not!

    Maybe an easier sell in England, having New Zealand performing the Haka, rather than God Save the Queen. Should go down well hey!

Comments are closed.