If you’re anything like me, the build-up to New Zealand playing a rugby match is only made more exciting by the prospect of the haka and watching their opponents trying to hold their nerve in the face of what some describe as a ‘war dance’.
The haka is a traditional ceremonial dance in Maori culture, being adopted into the pre-game routine for the All Blacks since 1905. Though some may argue that using the haka as a form of intimidation giving the players an unfair advantage and psychological edge against their opponents, I will challenge this by claiming that it represents a cultural bind between the Maori’s and white settlers that is far more important than aiming to intimate the All Blacks opponents.
Also, isn’t trying to psych out your opponents’ part and parcel of competitive sport? In fact, many teams even enjoy the challenge of coming up against the haka. Similar to many settler colonies, New Zealand’s history has not always been pretty; from the arrival of the Dutch in 1642 followed by the French and British in 1769, much of New Zealand’s land has been fought over, culminating in the New Zealand wars in the 1960s.
The war pressured the Maoris to hand over land which led to decades of tension. The Maori population, and indeed their culture, was largely shunned by the settlers until efforts were made in the 20th century to improve their position within wider New Zealand society. The Maoris have fought hard to increase their social footing, for example the Maori protest movement which emerged in the 1960s and the New Zealand government have equally responded with initiatives that aimed to bind the different cultures and redress historical grievances. The introduction of the haka into the pregame ritual of the All Blacks is an important acknowledgment of New Zealand’s history and the Maori culture. The haka enables the display of the best thing that sport has the power to achieve; binding people together regardless of religion, history or ethnicity. To deprive the All Blacks of the haka would undermine New Zealand’s efforts to successful unite its nation.
Last modified: 11th November 2019