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Saturday Nov 29, 2008

Why New Zealand do the Haka

A week after seeing Wales stand up to and stare down the Haka, debate continues to flow about what is in fact the correct way to face the famous prematch ritual. Some have taken it one step further, questioning why it is that New Zealand are actually given the right to perform the Haka at all.

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For years individuals have moaned that it gives the All Blacks a huge advantage over the opposition, and that it should be stopped as it is quite simply unfair.

The reality of the situation is that it is, first and foremost, a tradition. It’s also a hugely valuable piece of showmanship that goes along way towards adding to not only the mystique of the All Blacks, but towards the charisma of rugby itself.

Opinions are mixed surrounding the issue, as always, and earlier in the year we even heard Australian commentator Phil Kearns mumble on a live broadcast Get rid of it.

An English journalist wrote in a well known newspaper last week that the Haka has become tirelessly irksome.

“Both rugby codes have been subjected this month to a tedious basinful of this now charmless eye-rolling, tongue-squirming dance. Now the haka is an over-rehearsed, over-choreographed production number with a nasty malignant edge to it,” he added.

All Black legend Buck Shelford has rubbished those comments, saying that the use of the war dance is appropriate as a game of rugby is like a war. It is a sign of respect to the opposition after all.

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“In our culture the haka is about pride and mana and it’s about a challenge to the opposition.”

Sure, there are always critics of the Haka, and of how it is performed by certain individuals, but there is no doubt that it is not only a bone tingling challenge to the opposition, but a fantastic marketing tool for the sport of rugby. Its something special that has the power to intrigue and engage even those whove never seen the sport before.

The recent Munster and All Black clash drew in record viewers, and last weeks Welsh standoff will go down in rugby folklore as a historic moment for our sport.

As explained by former All Black fullback Glen Osborne, it is simply about the tradition and the challenge. As a team, how you face it is up to you. Kick a ball around like David Campese, get up close like Richard Cokerill, or stare them down like the Welsh.

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The fact of the matter is, the Haka is here to stay, so lets enjoy the confrontation from both sides, and rather than criticise it lets try understand and embrace it.

Time: 04:35

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