Haka: No place for a sanitised production
SPOTLIGHT: As New Zealand heads to Cardiff for their year-end showdown with Wales, the famous pre-match ritual of the New Zealand haka is being foisted into the spotlight again.
Once again World Rugby has been asked to allow the opposition an appropriate response, not force them to be meek spectators.
Chris Foy, in his Daily Mail column, suggested Wales should be allowed to front up to the All Blacks, rather than passively stand by while the Kiwi do the pre-match war dance.
“New Zealand’s opponents have no need to stand in passive pre-match deference,” Foy said.
“If the Haka is worthy of government-level protection, the right of reply must be protected too.
“Remarkably, the Maori war dance has been included in a new trade deal between the UK and New Zealand. The agreement was to ‘co-operate with New Zealand to identify appropriate ways to advance recognition and protection of the Haka’.
“Protection in this instance doesn’t mean being precious about this tradition.
“In oval-ball terms, it means enhancing the principle of laying down a challenge and expecting it to be met.”
The Daily Mail columnist said there is no place for a “sanitised production”, with overt aggression on one side and meek compliance on the other.
“If there is a desire to advance recognition of the Haka, let rival teams meet it head-on.
“Remember Richard Cockerill going toe-to-toe with Norm Hewitt at Old Trafford in 1997? Of course, because he met the challenge and it went down in folklore.
“France linking arms and walking towards the hosts at Eden Park before the 2011 World Cup final was similarly memorable, as was England forming an arrowhead to stare down the All Blacks before beating them in the 2019 semi-final in Yokohama.”
There have been some incredible challenges over the years. Below are 10 of the best!
10) Richard Cockerill vs Norm Hewitt, 1997
After staring each other down during the Haka in 1997, hookers Richard Cockerill and Norm Hewitt took their on-field rivalry out onto the streets. A year after that Old Trafford Test in 1997, both men were found brawling outside a taxi in drunken ruckus which left the England player with a black eye.
9) France’s ‘Flying V’, RWC 2011 Final
Wearing their white away strip on Kiwi territory, the French – a long-standing bogey team for New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup – marched towards the Haka in a V-formation, as if a flock of migrating birds. Prop Fabien Marcella said of the decision: “It was a ‘V’ for victory, quite simply. It’s the chance of a lifetime to play a final at Eden Park, we didn’t want to miss out on it.”
8) Tonga’s ‘Sipi Tau’ vs the Haka, RWC 2003
Breaking from the current norm of one team performing their pre-match ritual before the other, Tonga and New Zealand went toe-to-toe with their respective traditional war-dances, creating a spine-tingling cacophony of noise. In truth it was as close as Tonga got to the All Blacks all evening.
7) BOD and Dwayne Peel do their homework
In the long history of staring down the Haka, this was arguably the most ill-advised approach. In keeping with Maori culture, Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll approached the centre of the pitch accompanied by Dwayne Peel, and threw a blade of grass to ‘accept’ the All Black challenge. It was seemingly not appreciated.
6) Welsh standoff, 2008
It went from the stuff of legend from the Welsh to painfully awkward, and then back again. Three days before the game at the Millennium Stadium, Wales’ Kiwi coach Warren Gatland alerted captain Ryan Jones and co. that the Haka only technically ends when the opposition turn away from it.
Flanker Martyn Williams then asked what would happen if no one turned away, and was met with shrugs of various shoulders. The rest, as they say…
5) Willie Anderson leads an Irish charge, 1989
Anderson’s reasoning was that Lansdowne Road was Ireland’s home ground, and the Sixmilecross man found it absurd that the Kiwis were mandated to get the first cheer of the day by “doing a dance.” His umbrage birthed a legendary moment which, in many ways, changed the Haka forever, as he marched towards Buck Shelford and roused the Irish crowd. Shelford would later speak of his admiration for Anderson and Ireland’s challenge.
4) The dressing-room Haka, 2006
The Welsh again, although this was two years’ prior to 2008’s standoff at halfway. A year after the All Blacks had torn the B&I Lions asunder down south, Wales demanded that their anthem be the last ceremonial process witnessed by the 72,000-strong crowd before kick-off. The All Blacks, in protest to Wales’ plan to respond with Land Of Our Fathers, decided instead to perform the Haka indoors.
When asked if he would apologise, WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said: “I don’t think anyone comes out well in this – both sides regret what happened on Saturday.”
3) Chabal’s face, RWC 2007
You could count on one hand the number of New Zealanders who have forgiven Wayne Barnes for his performance during their 2007 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal with France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, and that hand could conceivably be fingerless.
Irrespective of refereeing errors on that occasion, the French pulled a France, and performed majestically where few believed they’d come within an ass’s roar of their far superior opponents. It was Freddy Michalak who inspired them after kick-off, but it was Sale’s Sebastian Chabal who set the tone during one of history’s most memorable Hakas, staring down his adversaries until long after New Zealand’s players had parted, offering nods of furrow-browed nods of acknowledgement throughout the process. Result: France won 20-18 and knocked New Zealand out of the World Cup.
2) The Munster Haka, 2008
What was designed as a showpiece to mark the 30th anniversary of ’78 would transpire to be a titanic struggle between two rugby strongholds, as 33/1 outsiders Munster, shy of 10 internationals, came within a hair’s breadth of repeating a three decade-old feat.
The southern province’s Kiwi contingent – Doug Howlett, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi and original project player Jeremy Manning – led a once-off Munster Haka, the four of them backed by the raucous roars of 26,000 frenzied fans. Then came silence, as the All Blacks responded beneath the weight of a famous Thomond hush. It was, and remains, the stuff of legend.
1) Campo’s kicking practice in Dublin, RWC 1991
Australia would repeat the feat as a collective five years later, but iconic Wallaby outside back David Campese produced in 1991 what most consider to be the greatest Haka challenge of all time. ‘Campo’ refused to entertain the Haka as a concept, instead travelling back to the Aussie goal-line and practising his kicking as his teammates faced off against the old enemy near halfway.
Sources: Daily Mail & balls.ie