Se­cret of a good haka — pick an ugly leader

Daily Mail - - Tennis Drugs Shock - As told to: CHRIS FOY

THE All Blacks’ haka, per­formed just be­fore kick-off, has be­come one of the iconic sport­ing tra­di­tions and it will help to set the mood for explosive Tests in this se­ries. Since the Lions’ ar­rival, they have been greeted by count­less ver­sions of the Maori greet­ing, which serves to lay down a chal­lenge — in­clud­ing a world-record per­for­mance by nearly 8,000 peo­ple op­po­site their ho­tel in Ro­torua. Many of the matches have been pre­ceded by hakas and the All Blacks will make a late de­ci­sion about whether to con­front their op­po­nents with the tra­di­tional Ka

mate Ka mate or the no­to­ri­ously ag­gres­sive Kapa O Pongo. Be­ing en­trusted with the task of lead­ing the haka is a pres­ti­gious hon­our for New Zealand play­ers and here, LIAM MESSAM (right), a back-rower of Maori her­itage who pre­vi­ously held that spe­cial role, an­swers five key ques­tions from

Sports­mail about how it all works…

1 HOW ARE HAKA LEAD­ERS CHO­SEN?

‘In an All Blacks en­vi­ron­ment, the lead­er­ship group chooses the leader of the haka. It doesn’t mat­ter what na­tion­al­ity you are. Ob­vi­ously a few Samoan boys have led it. When I was there, I was try­ing to get Kieran Read to lead it, be­cause he’s a pretty good haka leader but those (se­nior) guys in the squad make that de­ci­sion. I guess they try to get a na­tive to lead it, be­cause it is our haka, but if not there are other guys who are suit­able. The best thing to do is to get the ugli­est per­son to lead it — that’s why, at the mo­ment, TJ (Per­e­nara) and Aaron Smith do it!’

2 WHO DE­CIDES WHICH HAKA WILL BE PER­FORMED?

‘The skip­per chooses which haka to use, on the day. He will choose it based on how he feels the week has gone. Peo­ple some­times think that it is al­ways Kapa O

Pango for big­ger Test matches, but both hakas play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the team, so it is just about how they feel on the field, on the day. The skip­per makes that call.’

3 WHEN DO THE ALL BLACKS PRAC­TISE THE HAKA?

‘You prac­tise when you are small. Pretty much by the time you are in that team, you know the haka — you know the words and the ac­tions. We don’t have any prac­tices, you are just ex­pected to know it. It starts when you are lit­tle kids. It is up to a player, if they don’t know the haka — the ac­tions or the words — to come up to one of the boys who do know it and ask for help!’

4 DO YOU THINK IT BRINGS A PSY­CHO­LOG­I­CAL AD­VAN­TAGE?

‘I don’t think it does give you an edge by do­ing a haka be­fore the game. Both teams are get­ting ready for bat­tle and it’s just who we are and what we do. It is in our DNA to set the chal­lenge. Some peo­ple might think we are get­ting an ex­tra edge from it, and if that is what they are think­ing then ob­vi­ously we are!’

5 IS IT IM­POR­TANT THE OP­PO­SI­TION RE­SPECT THE HAKA?

‘We’ve had the Welsh and the French do­ing dif­fer­ent things a cou­ple of times. We have learned from those ex­pe­ri­ences. Most of the time, it is just about do­ing the haka and then get­ting on with the job. I was sit­ting in the stand in Cardiff when the Welsh boys just stayed stand­ing there af­ter the haka and that was pretty cool to watch!’

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