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.