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'Redneck' haka lands Hurricanes in racial storm

REACTION: The Hurricanes said they have apologised to the New Zealand government after their women’s team used a traditional haka to slam the government as a “redneck” coalition.

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The Hurricanes Poua side altered the words in their version of the dance before a women’s Super Rugby Aupiki match in Hamilton last Saturday, making a reference in Maori to “this redneck government”.

The haka is a fierce war dance that originated to prepare Maori warriors for battle but has since been adopted by many New Zealand sporting teams.

The head of the Hurricanes, who run the men’s and women’s Super Rugby teams, said they apologised to the sports minister Chris Bishop.

“We have reached out,” Hurricanes Chief Executive Avan Lee told AFP.

Racial tensions have been bubbling in New Zealand since the new government was voted in last year.

The three-party ruling coalition has said it plans to review the country’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, sparking concern among Maori who fear losing their rights to autonomy and protection.

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Nationwide protests were held when parliament opened in December.

The Hurricanes boss said his organisation was blindsided by the team’s altered haka, performed before a heavy away (24-46) loss to the Chiefs Manawa.

“There was no discussion or consultation, which I would have expected,” Lee added.

“It’s not the Hurricanes’ role to make political statements, especially when the whole organisation hasn’t agreed to it.”

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The CEO said he had made it “very clear” to the team management what he expects in future.

“Concerning making political statements, that’s not what we are here to do,” Lee added.

He said he was unsure whether the semi-professional female players would be fined or penalised.

“We need to get to the bottom of it, understand what’s behind it and what is the attitude moving forward.”

The “redneck government” jibe drew criticism of the Hurricanes from deputy prime minister Winston Peters.

“If they focussed more on tackling and catching the ball, instead of expending all their energy performing a haka trying too hard to attack the government, they may not have been thrashed so badly,” Peters posted on social media.

“I don’t see the world No.1 Black Ferns doing that,” he said referring to the New Zealand women’s team, the reigning world champions.

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