Etzebeth ready to get his 'haka game face' on
Veteran South African lock Eben Etzebeth has become a ‘social media celebrity’ since the weekend, but it has very little to do with his on-field performance.
Etzebeth, 29, had a respectable performance in his 93 Test – a 17-19 loss to New Zealand in the Rugby Championship Round Five match in Townsville this past weekend.
However, it was his stolid stare during the All Blacks’ performance of the haka that enraptured social media users.
The Bok lock said it was not a deliberate ploy and he will have to watch a replay of the All Blacks’ pre-match routine to understand what is causing the stir.
Etzebeth said facing the haka, for him, is just about ‘living in the moment’ and one of the events that only happens when you play one of the Pacific nations or New Zealand.
“It is always a special moment,” he told a virtual media briefing, adding: “You just wish the game can start right after the haka.
“[However,] some guys want some water first.
“It is always special and we have another opportunity this weekend, so it is going to be nice to face it again.”
Etzebeth said he did not have a preference for either version of the All Black haka Ka Mate or Kapa o Pango.
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They performed the latter in this past weekend’s 100th Test between the two countries – usually reserved for special occasions as a sight of respect.
“It has [special] meaning to them,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “I played with a couple of New Zealand guys in France.
“It has a different to them than for us, facing the haka. We respect that.
“We enjoy facing whichever haka they come with.
“For us, we are in a Green and Gold jersey and we can’t wait for that whistle to start the game.”
The All Blacks are believed to have first performed a choreographed and synchronized version of the ‘Ka Mate‘ haka in 1905.
Before a Tri-Nations match against South Africa on 27 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. This was interpreted by many as a “throat-slitting” action directed at the opposing team.
However, it has been explained as the “drawing of a breath”.