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Haka of the All Blacks


Haka of the All Blacks

The Haka is a traditional Maori dance from New Zealand. There are thousands of Haka that are performed by various tribes and cultural groups throughout New Zealand. The best known Haka of them all is called "Ka Mate". It has been performed by countless New Zealand teams both locally and internationally. It is normally performed immediately prior to the event that is to take place: e.g. sports matches, conferences, VIP functions, hui, etc

It was adopted by the New Zealand national rugby union team and has been performed by this team at every local and international match since 1905.[1] Over the years they have most commonly performed the haka "Ka Mate". In the early decades of international rugby, they sometimes performed other haka,[2] some of which were composed for specific tours. Since 2005 they have occasionally performed a new haka, "Kapa o Pango". The performance of the haka has been called "the greatest ritual in world sport."[3]

The haka performed against England on 1 December 2012 when the All Blacks aimed to extend their unbeaten run of 20 matches began 'E nga maramara'.
The haka originated in New Zealand but the year is still unknown, it was made global in 1900 when it was first performed by the New Zealand rugby team during the pre-game. Haka are also performed by some other New Zealand national teams, such as the Kiwis (rugby league), the Tall Blacks (men's basketball), the Ice Blacks (men's ice hockey) and Lacrosse team[4] – as well as some non-New Zealand sports teams.[5]


The first New Zealand rugby team to tour overseas, playing eight matches in New South Wales, Australia, in 1884, performed "a Maori war cry" or haka before each of its matches.

During 1888–9, the New Zealand Native team toured the Home Nations of the United Kingdom, the first team from a colony to do so. It was originally intended that only Māori players would be selected, but four non Māori were finally included. As the non Māori were born in New Zealand, the name "Native" was considered justified. The team performed a haka before the start of their first match on 3 October 1888 against Surrey. They were described as using the words "Ake ake kia kaha" which suggests that the haka was not "Ka Mate". It was intended that before each match they would perform the haka dressed in traditional Māori costume but the costumes were soon discarded.

The Ka Mate haka was not well known at this time. In 1900, a newspaper reported New Zealand soldiers in the Boer War chanting "Ka Mate! Ka Mate! Ka ora! Ka ora! Hae-haea! Ha!" The soldiers thought it meant "Kill him! Chop him up! Baste him!"

But during the 1901 Royal Tour, Ngati Kahungunu warriors revived Ka Mate when they performed it to welcome the Duke of Cornwall at Rotorua. Newspapers described the full actions of this "ancient ngeri," printing its complete Maori words and an accurate translation. A movie cameraman recorded the performance. Ka Mate became famous, and was widely performed throughout New Zealand.

Nevertheless, when New Zealand played its first full international test match against Australia in Sydney in August 1903, the New Zealanders' warcry was "Tena Koe Kangaroo." (full details below)

In 1905 New Zealand made their first tour of Britain. This was the first time the team were referred to as the All Blacks and this particular team also became known as the 'Originals'. It is uncertain whether they performed a haka before every match, but they at least performed "Ka Mate" before their first test, against Scotland, and before the match against Wales. The Welsh crowd, led by the Welsh team, responded by singing the Welsh national anthem.

When a New Zealand Army team played Wales in 1916, the words of "Ka Mate" were included in the printed programme, indicating that the haka was established as an accompaniment to New Zealand rugby teams playing overseas.

The 1924–5 New Zealand rugby team which toured the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Canada and which was nicknamed the Invincibles, performed a haka that was written for them during the voyage to England by two supporters, Judge Frank Acheson of the Native Land Court and Wiremu Rangi of Gisborne.[6] The haka was led by star player George Nepia. It was performed before all but two of the tour matches. Reporters criticised the team for disappointing the crowd on the two occasions it was not performed.

A pre-match haka was not always performed on All Blacks tours. The team that toured Britain in 1935–36 did not perform one before matches, although they did some impromptu performances at social functions. In the early decades, haka were only rarely performed at home matches, such as the third test of the 1921 Springboks tour, played in Wellington.

"Ka Mate"

Main article: Ka Mate

The All Blacks are believed to have first performed the "Ka Mate" haka in 1906.

It is said that this Haka was composed by Te Rauparaha of Ngāti Toa to commemorate his escape from death during an incident in 1810. Chased by his enemies he hid in a food-storage pit under the skirt of a woman. He climbed out to find someone standing over him, who, instead of killing Te Rauparaha, turned out to be another chief friendly to him. In relief, Te Rauparaha performed this ancient haka, which had been performed all through Aotearoa for centuries (Ko Nga Moteatea, 1853). The story of Te Rauparaha was merely woven into several older stories about this haka.


The "Ka Mate" haka generally opens with a set of five preparatory instructions shouted by the leader, before the whole team joins in:

"Ka Mate"
Leader: Ringa pakia! Slap the hands against the thighs!
Uma tiraha! Puff out the chest.
Turi whatia! Bend the knees!
Hope whai ake! Let the hips follow!
Waewae takahia kia kino! Stomp the feet as hard as you can!
Leader: Ka mate, ka mate I die, I die,
Team: Ka ora' Ka ora' I live, I live
Leader: Ka mate, ka mate I die, I die,
Team: Ka ora Ka ora " I live, I live,
All: Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru This is the hairy man
Nāna i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā ...Who caused the sun to shine again for me
A Upane! Ka Upane! Up the ladder, Up the ladder
Upane Kaupane" Up to the top
Whiti te rā,! The sun shines!
Hī! Rise!

"Tena Koe Kangaroo" 1903

Early in July 1903, when the New Zealand players were assembling in Wellington for their Australian tour, the Evening Post reported that... A unique souvenir has been prepared for the New Zealand team by Mr C. Parata. It contains the following warcry

Tena koe, Kangaroo How are you, Kangaroo!
Tupoto koe, Kangaroo! You look out, Kangaroo!
Niu Tireni tenei haere nei New Zealand is invading you
Au Au Aue a! Woe woe woe to you!

The Post's rugby correspondent later reported that the war-cry was first practised by the New Zealand team in mid-Tasman on Monday 13 July, and first performed "in response to several calls" at their official reception at Sydney on Thursday.

The New Zealanders played ten matches on the tour (won 10, lost 0, points for 276, points against 13). Presumably the warcry was performed before all their matches although a search in PapersPast ( only located its use on 29 July 1903 before the New Zealand v Metropolitan Union match at Sydney (Taranaki Herald, 30 July 1903).

"Ko Niu Tireni" 1924

The Invincibles performed this haka during their unbeaten 1924–1925 tour. It was written during their voyage to England by Wiremu Rangi of Gisborne, and polished up by Judge Acheson of the Native Land Court. It had two verses, but the second verse (Put a few of your famous teams on display, and let's play each other in friendship) was omitted in later matches.

First verse of Ko Niu Tireni, with a 1925 translation

Kia whakangawari au i a hau Let us prepare ourselves for the fray
I au-e! Hei! (The sound of being ready)
Ko Niu Tireni e haruru nei! The New Zealand storm is about to break
Au, Au, aue hā! Hei! (The sound of the imminent storm.)
Ko Niu Tireni e haruru nei! The New Zealand storm waxes fiercer
Au, Au, aue hā! Hei! (Sounds of The height of the storm.)
A ha-ha!
Ka tū te ihiihi We shall stand fearless
Ka tū te wanawana We shall stand exalted in spirit
Ki runga ki te rangi, We shall climb to the heavens
E tū iho nei, tū iho nei, hī! We shall attain the zenith the utmost heights.
Au! Au! Au!

Newspaper reports of early games spoke of the weird war cry of the visitors in response to the crowds' singing. Thus the fifth game at Swansea began with 40,000 waiting Welshmen singing Cwm Rhondda, Sospan Fach, Land of My Fathers and then God Save the Queen, to which the All Blacks responded with a weird chant led by Nepia.

But as fame of their unbeaten status spread, so did the status of their haka. At the beginning of their 22nd game in Wales at Llanelli, we read
"On the appearance of the men in red, "Sosban Fach" was sung with great enthusiasm. Nepia then led the All Blacks in their famous war dance, which was very impressive. One could almost hear a pin drop while it was rendered. The crowd again sang 'Sosban Fach' in reply."

Source, The Triumphant Tour! : the All Blacks in England, Ireland and Wales, 1924–1925. This rugby treasure is mostly reprints of extensive newspaper reports of each match of the tour.

The haka in "Finnegans Wake"

Irish writer James Joyce heard this haka performed at the Invincibles' match at Paris in January 1925. He modified some of the words and used them in his word-play novel Finnegans Wake.

Let us propel us for the frey of the fray! Us, us, beraddy!
Ko Niutirenis hauru leish! A lala!
Ko Niutirenis haururu laleish! Ala lala!
The Wullingthund sturm is breaking.
The sound of maormaoring
The Wellingthund sturm waxes fuercilier.
Finnegans Wake, 2nd ed. 1950, Book II chap ii, page 335.

"Kapa o Pango" 2005


Before a Tri Nations match against South Africa on 28 August 2005 at Carisbrook in Dunedin, the All Blacks unexpectedly introduced a new haka, "Kapa o Pango". It featured an extended and aggressive introduction by team captain Tana Umaga highlighted by a drawing of the thumb down the throat.[7] This was interpreted by many as a "throat-slitting" action directed at the opposing team. The All Blacks went on to win the match 31 to 27.

The words to "Kapa o Pango" are more specific to the rugby team than "Ka Mate", referring to the warriors in black and the silver fern.[8]

The new haka was developed by Derek Lardelli of Ngāti Porou by modifying the first verse of "Ko Niu Tirini," the haka used by the 1924 All Blacks. An NZRU press release stated that
Kapa o Pango has been over a year in the making, and was created in consultation with many experts in Māori culture. It will serve as a complement to "Ka Mate" rather than a replacement, to be used for 'special occasions'.

John Smit, the Springbok captain who faced the debut performance of "Kapa o Pango", said after the match: "To stand there and watch it for the first time was a privilege."[9] The Daily Telegraph columnist Mick Cleary criticised the new haka as "unmistakeably [sic] provocative … There is a fine line and the All Blacks crossed it. Carisbrook is a rugby field not a back-street alley."[10] French coach Bernard Laporte requested New Zealand not to perform "Kapa o Pango" during their November 2006 tour of France, claiming that "It's no good for the promotion of our sport."[11]

The All Blacks opted not to perform "Kapa o Pango" in their opening test of 2006 against Ireland. It was requested that they perform their usual Ka Mate haka while a review was conducted into "Kapa o Pango". The throat-slitting action at the end of "Kapa o Pango" had drawn many complaints in the lead-up to the Irish test, with members of the public complaining about it to the NZRU. The NZRU said that it was not because of public pressure that it was not performed against Ireland.[12]

In the run-up to the first All Blacks Test of the 2006 Tri Nations at Jade Stadium in Christchurch against Australia, the NZRU completed their review, and concluded that the gesture had a radically different meaning within Māori culture and haka traditions, indicating the drawing of "hauora", the breath of life into the heart and lungs.[13] And so "Kapa o Pango" was performed, complete with the final gesture, before the Australia test.

Despite this, the controversial gesture was withdrawn in 2007, with a modified action (raking the right arm from the left hip to over the right shoulder) performed in the challenge when "Kapa o Pango" was performed in test matches against France and South Africa. During the 2008 Tri Nations series, the All Blacks appear to have reverted to the original action of drawing the hand across the throat.

On 24 September 2011, for their Pool A match against France at Eden Park, the All Blacks performed the Kapa o Pango, which included the act of slitting the throat at the end. The French had ousted New Zealand at the 2007 World Cup. It had since been a fixture since the knockout stages against Argentina and Australia.

Published words and the NZRU explanation

"Kapa o Pango"
Kapa o Pango kia whakawhenua au i ahau! All Blacks, let me become one with the land
Hī aue, hī!
Ko Aotearoa e ngunguru nei! This is our land that rumbles
Au, au, aue hā! It's our time! It's our moment!
Ko Kapa o Pango e ngunguru nei! This defines us as the All Blacks
Au, au, aue hā! It's our time! It's our moment!
I āhahā!
Ka tū te ihiihi Our dominance
Ka tū te wanawana Our supremacy will triumph
Ki runga ki te rangi e tū iho nei, tū iho nei, hī! And be placed on high
Ponga rā! Silver fern!
Kapa o Pango, aue hī! All Blacks!
Ponga rā! Silver fern!
Kapa o Pango, aue hī, hā! All Blacks!

Words chanted on field, and their literal interpretation

Taringa whakarongo! Let your ears listen
Kia rite! Kia rite! Kia mau! Hī! Get ready...! Line up...! Steady...! Yeah!
Kia whakawhenua au i ahau! Let me become one with the land
Hī aue, hī! (assertive sounds to raise adrenaline levels)
Ko Aotearoa e ngunguru nei! New Zealand is rumbling here
Au, au, aue hā!
Ko Kapa o Pango e ngunguru nei! The Team in Black is rumbling here
Au, au, aue hā!
I āhahā!
Ka tū te Ihiihi Stand up to the fear
Ka tū te Wanawana Stand up to the terror
Ki runga ki te rangi, To the sky above,!
E tū iho nei, tū iho nei, hī! Fight up there, high up there. Yeah!
Ponga rā! The shadows fall!
Kapa o Pango, aue hī! Team in Black, yeah!
Ponga rā! Darkness falls!
Kapa o Pango, aue hī, hā! Team in Black, Yeah, Ha!

The words of both 'Kapa o Pango' and 'Ko Niu Tireni' are taken from the haka of the earthquake god Ruaumoko, Ko Ruaumoko e ngunguru nei. The lines beginning Ka tū te ihi-ihi... are found in many old haka.Ponga ra, ponga ra is the opening line of 'Te Kiri Ngutu,' an 1880s lament for stolen territory.

Responses and controversies

The haka, while normally enjoyed by spectators, has been criticised[by whom?] as an unsporting attempt to intimidate the opposition before the match begins. However, most teams accept that the haka is part of rugby's heritage and face up to the All Blacks during its performance, with both teams standing about 10 metres apart. The 2007 Portuguese Rugby team Captain Vasco Uva said of the haka that "[We] faced it, gave it the respect it deserved and it gave us motivation and we knew if it gave them strength, it was also a point of strength for us."[14]

Ignoring the haka is a tactic sometimes used by opposing teams. Famously, the Australian rugby team did a warm up drill well away from the All Blacks during their 1996 Test Match in Wellington. More recently, the Italian rugby team ignored the haka during a 2007 World Cup Pool Match. All Black team member, Keven Mealamu, said later that in his opinion the snub had backfired and provided motivation to his team.[15] Australian back David Campese often ignored the haka, most notably in the 1991 World Cup semi-final, when he chose to practice warm-up drills instead of facing the All Blacks.

In 1989, as the All Blacks were performing the haka in Landsdowne Road before playing Ireland, the Irish lined up in a tight V formation to facing New Zealand and then edged closer and closer to the All Blacks. By the time the end of the haka came, captain Willie Anderson was only inches from Buck Shelford's face.[16] The Irish did a jubilant cheer and mockingly waved their hands in the air at the conclusion.

One of the best-known responses to the haka occurred during the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Springboks, led by captain Francois Pienaar defiantly faced the haka by striding towards the All Blacks as they performed the dance. By the end of the haka, the Springboks were a metre from the All Blacks team staring them down.

In 1997, Richard Cockerill was disciplined for responding to the haka before the start of an England vs. All Blacks game. Cockerill went toe-to-toe with his opposite number Norm Hewitt while they performed the haka. The referee became so concerned that Hewitt and Cockerill would begin fighting that he pushed Cockerill away from Hewitt. Cockerill went on to say afterwards "I believe that I did the right thing that day," he said. "They were throwing down a challenge and I showed them I was ready to accept it. I'm sure they would rather we did that than walk away."[17] In recent times when the haka is performed against England, it is often drowned out by England fans singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot".[18]

In 2005, the All Blacks agreed to a request from the Welsh Rugby Union to repeat the sequence of events from the original match a century before in 1905. This involved the All Blacks performing the haka after "God Defend New Zealand" and before "Hen Wlad fy Nhadau". For the November 2006 test, the Welsh Rugby Union demanded a repeat of this sequence. The All Blacks refused, and instead chose to perform the haka in their changing room before the match.[19] All Blacks captain Richie McCaw defended the decision by stating that the haka was "integral to New Zealand culture and the All Blacks' heritage" and "if the other team wants to mess around, we'll just do the haka in the shed".[20] The crowd reacted negatively to the lack of the haka and then being shown brief footage of the haka on the screens at the Millennium Stadium.[21]

In 2006, the Seven Network TV channel in Australia used digital enhancement to add handbags to video of New Zealand rugby players performing the haka.[22] This was inspired by an incident when former All Black captain Tana Umaga struck Hurricanes team mate Chris Masoe over the head with a woman's handbag after the Super 14 final.[23] All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith criticised the advertisement, saying "It is insensitive, I think, to Māori and disrespectful of the All Blacks".[24]

The "Kapa o Pango" haka created controversy when the gesture of a thumb drawn down the throat was interpreted by many observers as implying throat slitting. The All Blacks and Māori interpreted it as drawing the breath of life into the heart and lungs ("hauora"). This led to calls for it to be banned,[25] although a poll conducted in July 2006 showed 60 percent support in New Zealand.[26] During Ireland's tour of New Zealand, the NZRU put the haka on a temporary hiatus, to review its appropriateness, by asking the All Blacks not to perform it against Ireland.[27]

In the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, France, after having won the coin toss for the choice of uniforms, famously wore the blue/white/red of the French flag and walked up to within a metre of the haka performance, forming a line of opposition to the performance by the All Blacks, who were wearing a predominantly silver uniform (as opposed to the traditional all black). France went on to beat the All Blacks 20–18.

In the 2008 Rugby Autumn Tests, Wales responded to the haka by standing on the pitch refusing to move until the All Blacks did. This resulted in the referee Jonathan Kaplan berating both teams for a full two minutes after the haka had ended until eventually New Zealand captain McCaw instructed his team to break off. After a spirited first half display which ended with Wales leading 9–6, the All Blacks responded positively and won the game 9–29.

Following the final of the 2011 World Cup, the French national team was fined by the IRB for marching to within 10 meters of their All Black opponents during the performance of the haka. To many, this has been viewed as an insult from the IRB. Campbell Live host John Campbell voluntarily offered to pay off the fine by going around the public and asking them to donate.

Use by other teams

Other New Zealand sports teams have similarly performed the haka before a match. The tradition of performing a haka before every Test Match is just as strong with the Kiwis , the New Zealand national rugby league team, performing it before every game. It is also performed by the Australian rules football team and Tall Blacks. The New Zealand Māori have performed the 'Timatanga' haka since 2001. When Munster hosted the All Blacks at Thomond Park in November 2008, the four New Zealand players in the Munster team performed their own haka prior to the All Blacks.[28] In the documentary Murderball, the New Zealand paralympic rugby team can be seen performing a modified version of the haka.

At the opening parade of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the New Zealand team stopped in front of the Queen and performed a haka.[29]

New Zealand teams have attracted some criticism for performing the haka, on occasions such as winning a swim relay bronze medal.[30]

In 2009, Ice Blacks did their haka before their ice hockey match against Australia.

The high-profile of the All Blacks, and their use of the haka has led to other Pacific teams to use similar dances from their own cultures, such as the Cibi, Kailao, and Siva tau. Other teams from the Pacific and elsewhere however have performed the Ka Mate or Kapa O Pango haka. For instance, the "Kapa O Pango" haka was used by the University of Hawaii Warriors in 2006, before they created their own war dance, the "Haʻa", in the Hawaiian language with original movements.

The Black Sticks, the (field) hockey team, also perform a haka.

The football team at the University of Arizona also performs a haka during their pre-game activities.

St. Edward High School (Ohio), one of the top rugby teams in the state, performs a haka in their pre-game activities.

See also



  • M. Pōmare, 'Ngāti Toarangatira', Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 9 June 2006. URL:
  • 'The Haka – In the Beginning', New Zealand Rugby Museum.

External links

  • Haka! – Haka Sports site.
  • Te Rauparaha and "Ka Mate" – website New Zealand in History
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