It is official. There is no acceptable response to the Haka.

The traditional Maori call to arms performed by New Zealand’s rugby players before every international match has become something of a bone of contention in recent years.

Some argue it should be banned. I don’t agree.

But we do seem to have reached a point where there is no satisfactory route through the cultural minefield. It does need to be resolved as the comments, analysis and accusations surrounding the Haka are becoming farcical.

Last Saturday, the Welsh response was to stand their ground in silence facing the Kiwi players.

It was a sign of respect and the decision to stand their ground and wait until the New Zealanders moved first was also a sign that the challenge had been accepted.

Welsh captain Ryan Jones also pointed out that by standing their ground, his players were reminding the Kiwis that they were guests in their country, their stadium, their pitch and in front of their fans.

It was one of the most rousing starts to an international at Cardiff I’ve seen in 30 years or more.

After the match several New Zealand players acknowledged the respect shown by their Welsh opponents.

Yet, barely a week on, both New Zealand coach Graham Henry and player Ma’a Nonu have accused the Welsh of showing disrespect and upsetting the Kiwis.

They added that they hoped England show more respect to the Haka ahead of the visit of the Kiwis on Saturday.

So, who is right?

Kiwi captain Richie McCaw and fellow player Kevan Mealamu who saw “no problem” with the Welsh response straight after the match?

Or, Henry and Nonu a few days before New Zealand take on England who now maintain the Welsh were wrong?

I have no desire to see the Haka removed from international rugby. It is a spectacle and it is right that New Zealand have the right to perform it before every match.

However, opponents have a right to respond too.

At the moment, it seems that opposing teams are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Give us a break guys, it is hard enough playing New Zealand without having to tread so carefully before, during and after the Haka.

We just want to enjoy the rugby.

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7 responses »

  1. tchendo says:

    Good post. I absolutely LOVED the Welsh ‘Face Off’ (as we called it). It added the tension and drama that’s sometimes lacking from games played outside the World Cup Tournament. I can’t remember it ever being done before and you could see in the AB’s faces they didn’t have a scooby how to react.

    I was just pleased we won in the end!

  2. Paul Groves says:

    tchendo: My biggest worry is that the mixed messages simply provides further ammunition to those who want the Haka banned.

    Last weekend it looked to me that both sides, all those in the stadium, most of those watching on TV and even the officials got fired up after the Welsh “face/stand off” – yet still it seems it was the wrong thing to do, according to some.

  3. Mik Barton says:

    Don’t know so much about rugby, but I think the Haka is a fantastic stirring ritual.

    My best memory is of the performance by the Kiwi ski team at the top of an Austrian mountain after an apres ski night out. It is unique and even the Scottish team whipping out their bagpipes wouldn’t have had the same effect.

  4. I love the Haka! It’s the best part of the game for me… Ahem. LOL No but honestly that was fascinating. My brother is a rugby player so I have to ask him what he thought about the face off but to be honest I didn’t realise that ppl didn’t like the Haka. I’m from Australia though and there’s quite a lot of Maoris in Sydney and I always thought it was a cool thing to do. But WOW Men are strange creatures aren’t they? All that tense communication in body language and facials… like a pack of dogs raring to go!! Incredible.

  5. le craic says:

    It’s a bit of theatre at the start of a match but I don’t understand how the Welsh were supposed to have disrespected anything. It’s a dance, nothing more nothing less.

  6. Paul Groves says:

    Mike; pomegranate; AJ: Thanks all. I can’t help thinking that the only people showing disrespect to the Haka at the moment are those who use it in the “mind games” ahead of an international – in this case Henry and Nonu themselves. Ironic that.

  7. Rhys says:

    I’m a kiwi and I think teams are entitled to respond to the haka whatever way they feel, because at the end of the day, if a dance in the middle of the pitch is all people can say gives the All Blacks a mental advantage, then those teams have bigger problems to worry about.

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