What is the meaning of the haka?

Everyone knows the Haka is the ritual that the New Zealand rugby team perform before they play each game. But not a lot of people know the meaning behind the haka.

What is the meaning of the haka? The Haka, famously performed by the New Zealand Rugby team The All Blacks is simply a ceremonial Maori war dance or challenge. The word Haka actually means dance, or a song accompanied by dance.

The Haka is one of the most famous traditions in rugby, but yet there are quite a few different rugby fans who do not know the meaning of the haka. The haka is a Maori war dance or challenge.

The haka is supposed to represent the pride, strength and unity of the group performing the haka. Traditionally, the haka was performed by men before they would go to war. It was also used to intimidate the enemy, which is a big reason for the New Zealand team using the Haka before they play a rugby game.

When did New Zealand Rugby start using the Haka?

As every rugby fan knows, the Haka is synonymous with New Zealand rugby. They perform the Maori war dance before every game, striking fear into the opposition. But not a lot of people know about the history of the dance.

New Zealand rugby players first started using the haka back in 1888. The rugby team which first represented New Zealand was called The Natives and they first performed the haka in 1888. At the time, the team were doing a tour of Britain and Australia, playing against various different teams from the region.

As The Natives were the travelling team, they wanted to strike fear into the opposition and so began performing the haka before each of their games. The All Blacks use the same haka today that was performed over 100 years ago. It wasn’t until 1986 that the All Blacks started to perform the haka at home games.

Who leads the Haka for the All Blacks?

The All Blacks performing the haka before each game that they play in is one of the best traditions in rugby. It is an honour to lead the haka, so let’s take a look at the player that is leading the haka for the All Blacks at the moment.

Aaron Smith is the player who leads the haka at the time of writing for the All Blacks. There is actually a format for how the player who leads the haka is picked. The tradition is that the most senior Maori player in the side is the player who leads the haka. He is going to lead the haka for New Zealand at the 2023 Rugby World Cup barring injury.

For those who have not heard of Aaron Smith before, he is one of the most experienced players in this All Blacks side. He made his debut for New Zealand in 2012 and just three years later, he was a key part in the New Zealand team which beat Australia to win their second Rugby World Cup title in a row.

Despite some excellent scrum halves in New Zealand, Smith has remained the starter for this team for more than a decade. In 2021, he became the tenth All Black to play 100 test matches for New Zealand and the first player of Maori descent to do so.

Smith has been the most senior Maori member of the All Blacks side for a number of years now and it means that he is the man who leads the Haka for this team. Seeing as Smith is ending his international rugby career after the 2023 Rugby World Cup, New Zealand will have someone new leading the haka very soon for them.

How do teams respond to the haka?

The haka is the most well known tradition in rugby and it usually sets the tone for a physical and exciting test match including the All Blacks team. A lot of focus is often put on how teams respond to the haka.

The majority of teams line up shoulder to shoulder during the haka in a fellow show of unity. Quite often there will be a staring match between the two teams during the haka, as the opposition want to meet the challenge that the haka represents. The haka is often met with a lot of respect from the international teams playing against New Zealand.

However, not every team responds the same way to the Haka. Famously in 1996, Australia continued to warm up while New Zealand were performing the haka in Wellington. In hindsight, it was a terrible move by Wallabies captain as Australia were beaten 43-6 after disrespecting the haka.

In 2019, England and New Zealand faced off in the Rugby World Cup semi-final. England lined up in a V shape and got much closer to the haka then they were supposed to. This resulted in the England team getting a fine. England did win this game, so it was a response which worked out well for England.

Why did England get fined for V shape?

A lot of people will remember that the England rugby team picked up a fine for the V shape that they were in prior to the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. As they did this during the haka, there is a good reason for the fine.

England were fined because they crossed the halfway line during the haka. World Rugby has a few different rules around how teams are supposed to respond to the haka. One of the main ones is that the opposing team is not allowed to cross the halfway line while New Zealand are performing the haka.

You can see that in the V formation that England formed, some of their players had crossed the halfway line and got too close to the haka. Therefore they broke World Rugby’s rules and were hit with a four figure fine for the incident. But considering England went on to win the game, then the fine might have actually been worth it for the team.

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