One of the biggest traditions in international rugby is watching the New Zealand team perform the Haka before every game. Despite it being a big rugby tradition, not a lot of people know why the All Blacks perform the Haka.
Why do All Blacks do the Haka? The All Blacks do the Haka prior to games as a show of strength and unity prior to games. It is often used to strike fear into the opposition prior to international fixtures.
You can really put the reason for the All Blacks doing the Haka down to one thing, tradition. The All Blacks have been performing the haka for pretty much the entire time that they have been an international team.
In the 1820s, Te Rauparaha, the warrior chief of the Maori tribe Ngati Toa, composed a form of the Haka known as “Ka Mate”, that was used by the New Zealand rugby team ever since. The women’s New Zealand team has a different version of the haka.
Does the Haka give the All Blacks an advantage?
It is hard to know whether the Haka gives the All Blacks a proper advantage. New Zealand have been the most successful team in international rugby over the last thirty years, but it is difficult to know how much of an impact that the Haka has on that.
Some people do believe that the Haka gives the All Blacks an advantage because it raises the teams heart rate before a game. There is not much better of a way to get psyched up for a game then a war dance involving shouting and slapping. It certainly seems to get the All Blacks pumped up for the game coming up.
There have been some times where it almost seems like the other team has benefitted from the Haka more than the All Blacks. In 2019, England met the Haka in a V shape, something not a lot of teams have done before. That tactic worked for England as they were able to beat the All Blacks.
But overall, it is probably likely that the All Blacks do get some sort of advantage from performing the Haka before the game. It is pretty good at intimidating any opponent and is a good show of physical prowess. It really adds to the history and tradition of the New Zealand rugby team.
Are the All Blacks the only team to do the Haka
The All Blacks are the team which has made the Haka famous. The traditional maori dance is performed by the New Zealand rugby team before every game. But the All Blacks team have inspired a lot of other teams to do similar dances.
The haka itself has sometimes been performed by teams other than the All Blacks. In a match between the All Blacks and Munster in 2008, four members of the Munster team performed the haka in front of the All Blacks. The four players were all from New Zealand, with the All Blacks performing their own haka in reply.
There are lots of other sports teams outside of rugby who perform the haka before every game. Quite often, international team’s from New Zealand will perform the haka prior to any sporting event.
The Haka is also not the only traditional war dance done prior to international rugby games. Other Maori cultures have their own version of the Haka. The Fijian rugby team usually performs the Cibi prior to international games. Cibi is a war dance with a Fijian origin, having first been performed by the rugby team in 1939.
The Tongan rugby team performed the Sipi Tau prior to rugby games, having started performing this in 1994.
Which team turned their back on the haka?
The Haka is an incredibly well respected pre game ritual for the New Zealand Rugby team. Usually, the opposing team lines up on the halfway line to watch the Haka. But not every team has been so respectful to the Haka.
Famously in 1996, the Wallabies turned their back on the Haka. It is one of the most famous moments in rugby history and for good reason. It was the first game of the Tri Nations and New Zealand were coming off the back of losing the Rugby World Cup final to the Springboks last year.
In the very first game of the tournament, the Wallabies travelled to Wellington for what looked to be a very difficult test against a loaded All Blacks team. In the warm up to the game, Australian captain John Eales made a massive decision.
Instead of the Australian team lining up on the halfway line during the Haka, the Wallabies instead would ignore the Haka and continue warming up. It was very much seen at the time as a massively disrespectful thing for the Australian team to do. It is the sort of thing that can make you look very stupid.
Well the extra warm up clearly did not work for the Wallabies as they were on the wrong end of a 43-6 loss. Australia could not stop New Zealand players like Jonah Lomu, Justin Marshall, Christian Cullen and Zinzan Brooke from scoring, with Australia only able to score two penalties in the entire game.
You can see why Australian captain John Eales called the move one of the biggest mistakes of his career.
Can team’s ignore the Haka?
There have been rugby teams that have ignored the Haka in the past, but it is the sort of thing which has become a lot more punished over recent years.
Quite often, there is some punishment given to any team who does anything that is believed to be disrespectful during the Haka. When the England rugby team met the Haka in a V shape in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, they received a fine for their actions.
So if there was a team who wanted to completely ignore the Haka, in a similar way to the Wallabies did in 1996, then there would probably be quite a large punishment from World Rugby.