it’s time for seasoned rugby fans to learn new tricks…   30 Aug 2005

Adam Ray

Tradition is such an important part of sport that it can be hard to know when to change an established habit or routine. You only have to look at the individual pre-match routines of sportsmen to see how important a seemingly superficial habit can be.

Anyone remember just why those red socks were important for Team New Zealand? Or why players always have their favourite seat in the dressing room before a match?

Given the inherent difficulty in changing or adapting a long-held tradition, it’s great to see the All Blacks have started using a new haka.

The Kapa O Pango (Team in Black) haka was performed for the first time against the Springboks at Carisbrook last weekend, after a year of discussion, preparation and practice.

The response seems to have been positive all-round. Springbok captain John Smit said it was a privilege to see it for the first time. Haka expert Dr Pita Sharples also congratulated the All Blacks, saying their new haka was totally in accordance with Maori tradition. Not that the words to the usual Ka Mate Ka Mate haka aren’t good, but the Kapa O Pango version is intended for the All Blacks, and the wording shows.

Here’s an example from the English translation: "Our supremacy will triumph/ And will be placed on high/ Silver Fern!/ All Blacks! Sounds pretty good to me. Perhaps they should stick in a temporary addition about the team being placed on high in France in 2007.

But the decision to try a new haka, which was apparently prompted by the players, highlights the confident leadership from Tana Umaga and other senior members of the team. You can just imagine the criticism they would have faced if the Kapa O Pango version was deemed to fall beneath the standards of the All Blacks, and the hundreds of hakas performed by the men in black over the years.

The other gamble was the new haka would debut with a losing performance from the All Blacks. Fortunately this gamble paid off. Now, thousands of rugby fans and followers of the haka will be looking to learn the moves of the Kapa O Pango.

But for the meantime, the Ka Mate Ka Mate version should still knock the socks off any foreigners demanding to see a haka performed live by Kiwis abroad.

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