Haka’s cur­rency is de­val­ued

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - JOSEPH RO­MANOS

Has the haka had its day? Ire­land prop Cian Healy bought him­self a whole lot of pub­lic­ity – lit­tle of it com­pli­men­tary – when he slammed the All Blacks’ haka in the lead- up to the test at Lans­downe Road.

Healy seemed to be go­ing to ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths not to be in­tim­i­dated.

He said he hated the haka and won­dered why the All Blacks were al­lowed to per­form it be­fore tests. He also said he never used the term All Blacks, pre­fer­ring to call them New Zealand.

Pre­dictably, Healy was laughed out of court in New Zealand rugby cir­cles, but he had a point.

I don’t hate the haka, but do feel it is so ridicu­lously over-done th­ese days that its cur­rency has been de­val­ued. At an Olympics or Com­mon­wealth Games there just don’t seem to be any haka-free zones. There al­ways seems to be a haka break­ing out in the New Zealand head­quar­ters, or when New Zealan­ders are com­pet­ing.

Tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tors in­vari­ably say, af­ter the All Blacks’ pre- match haka: ‘‘We’re in for a great per­for­mance to­day. That haka was done with real feel­ing.’’

As if it had any rel­e­vance on the way the team was about to play!

Like Healy, I can­not un­der­stand why the All Blacks are al­lowed to do their haka just be­fore a test. It means their op­po­nents have to stand there mo­tion­less while the All Blacks take cen­tre stage. In the era of pro­fes­sional sport, giv­ing one team so ob­vi­ous an ad­van­tage seems re­mark­able.

There’s a myth that the All Blacks have al­ways done a pre-match haka. Not so.

They used to do it quite of­ten when on tour – in 1928 in South Africa, the All Blacks would do a haka and the Spring­boks would re­spond with their own war cry, de­vised on the morn­ing of the game.

But the All Blacks al­most never did a haka at home. There was an ex­cep­tion be­fore the Scot­land test in Auck­land in 1975 and since the 1987 World Cup it has be­come de rigueur. In fact, not happy with their tra­di­tional Ka Mate haka, the All Blacks now have two – they came up with the Kapo o Pango ver­sion in 2005.

Teams re­spond to the haka in dif­fer­ent ways. Some stand there po­litely, wait­ing for it to fin­ish.

Be­fore the test at Ath­letic Park in 1996, the Wal­la­bies didn’t bother watch­ing, but headed off to do some warm-up drills. They were roundly con­demned by New Zealan­ders for be­ing rude. Crack Aus­tralian winger David Cam­pese used to point­edly ig­nore the haka.

In 1989, Ire­land marched in V for­ma­tion to­wards the All Blacks so that by the time the haka fin­ished, New Zealand’s Buck Shelford and Ire­land’s Wil­lie An­der­son were nose to nose. To his credit, Shelford praised the Ir­ish for their spir­ited ac­cep­tance of the chal­lenge.

In 1997, Eng­land hooker Richard Cock­er­ill was only cen­time­tres away from his op­po­site, Norm He­witt, by the end of the haka. Fran­cois Pien­aar led a sim­i­larly ag­gres­sive South African re­sponse be­fore the 1995 World Cup fi­nal.

There is ac­tu­ally no sat­is­fac­tory re­sponse to a haka. To stand there meekly of­fers New Zealand an edge. To re­ply ag­gres­sively risks be­ing la­belled cul­tur­ally un­feel­ing.

I’m with Cian Healy. As a pre- test ac­tiv­ity, the haka has had its day.


Out­spo­ken: Does Cian Healy have a point about the haka?

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