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'It's part of our culture' says Haka performing South African university team

BY Grant Constable  ·  Friday Apr 16, 2021

The latest footage of a South African university team performing a pre-match Haka has caused somewhat of a mixed reaction online, with some citing “cultural appropriation”.  The Walter Sisulu University captain has now explained the motivation behind it. 

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Just before kick-off in their FNB Varsity Shield matches, the university have taken to performing a Haka that is almost an exact replica of what the All Blacks perform. They did it again on Monday before facing the Durban University of Technology.

While there are many versions of Haka’s in New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, the Ka Mate and Kapa o Pango are unique to the national team, the All Blacks.

So why is this South African university side, WSU, performing it? Captain Litha Nkula spoke to VarsityCup.co.za to explain why.

“When I arrived at WSU, our late coach Sipho Metula told us stories about how this team got to mobilise and use New Zealand rugby players as icons within the team,” he explained.

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With many of the players admiring the All Blacks since the 2015 Rugby World Cup win, a former player suggested that they perform a haka to motivate the team, but it was initially just done as a post-match celebration.

“The players wanted to bring in the haka because they admired the way the All Blacks play. The players took the initiative to try and understand why the All Blacks do it.

“We chose the haka because of the style of rugby that we play. We hold ourselves to the standard of New Zealand rugby, we want to play like them. The haka entertains us but also brings that seriousness before a game.

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“It has become part of our culture. We explain to new players that come in why it is done and how it influences us as a team. That’s why we feel that we can’t play without it; it’s part of our team culture, even though we adopted it from New Zealand.”

Nkula says there is no disrespect intended.

“We’re doing it in a respectful manner and trying to bring confidence to our players. We would have done something else but because of the way that it has influenced us as a team, it’s not something we want to change.

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“We do listen to what people out there say, but we don’t see ourselves stopping the haka unless New Zealand says it’s disrespectful.”

While many online have suggested that it’s comical that they do that instead of an actual traditional South African war dance, Nkula says they do have their own elements from their own culture.

“It’s not that we don’t do anything from our traditions or cultures; we also sing Amagwijo before a game, during practice, and on our way to the game. The haka is just influential to us.”

This week a New Zealand Rugby spokesman told Newshub that despite its intellectual property being imitated, as long as the haka is performed with respect and understanding, there is no issue.

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