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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

 

Tiresome haka no longer cuts it as mere harmless pageantry


Richard Williams
The Guardian

It was on a grey March weekend in 1988 that I settled down in front of the television to watch an international rugby match. Before Wales and England could kick off, however, an extended newsflash brought pictures from West Belfast, where two members of the British army's signals regiment, 24-year-old Corporal Derek Wood and 23-year-old Corporal Robert Howes, had been dragged from their unmarked car by mourners at an IRA funeral. After being beaten and stripped, they were dragged behind a cemetery wall and shot, their final moments mercifully out of sight of the cameras.

When the pictures switched back to Cardiff Arms Park, it proved impossible to watch 30 young men mauling and rucking without the mind also calling up images of the mob engulfing the two soldiers. More than most sports, rugby is an encrypted form of warfare; on this occasion, the real thing had rendered it not just redundant but temporarily unwatchable.

I thought of that day while watching the All Blacks go through their latest version of the haka at Twickenham on Saturday. An explicit representation of the Maori's cherished warrior spirit, it has long been employed to strike terror into the hearts of their opponents.

To some, including this newspaper's distinguished rugby correspondent, the haka is a cherishable piece of pageantry, a worthwhile remnant of an authentic tribal tradition. To others, it is simply an amusing and picturesque prelude to an event upon which it can have no real influence, and is therefore harmless.

My own attitude has always been more ambivalent. Traditional pre-match ceremonies are a vital part of sport, from cricket's toss of a coin in the middle of the pitch to the voice ordering "gentlemen, start your engines" at Indianapolis. In that respect, the haka is unique and valuable. Its content is the aspect with which I have a problem.

This latest variation, given the title Kapa o Pango, is made up of the usual ingredients of elbow-waggling, crotch-fanning and lurid grimacing. Until the final seconds, that is, when the 15 players conclude the choreography by drawing fingers across throats in a gesture whose meaning is beyond ambiguity.

It was the very same gesture described by the footballers of Australia and Switzerland last week in the aftermath of the World Cup play-offs. Australia claimed their Uruguayan opponents had threatened them in Sydney, while the Swiss were greeted in like manner by Turkish fans as part of a campaign of intimidation in Istanbul.

The obvious rejoinder is to suggest those nice rugby-playing New Zealanders had no lethal message in mind - by contrast, perhaps, with Turkey's football fans and their police, whose reputation has never recovered from Manchester United's visit in 1993. On that occasion a lone fan at the airport, welcoming the arrival of Alex Ferguson's squad by holding up a small, tatty piece of cardboard inscribed "WELCOME TO THE HELL" in wobbly marker pen, was turned by the British media into a ravening mob in stories which became a self-fulfilling prophecy when the team were assaulted by the local police at the conclusion of a bad-tempered match.

Watching the All Blacks on Saturday, their eyes and biceps bulging as they roared out their war-cry, the haka seemed more gratuitous than ever. If they can get away with it, why can't everyone? No nation, after all, is without its share of historic grievances and its store of heroic legends. But the Welsh, to take but one example, do not see fit to turn their righteous anger over second homes and the turning of valleys into reservoirs for the benefit of the English into an excuse for inflicting a tiresome ritual on their sporting opponents. They would rather try to beat them where it counts; on the scoreboard.

But then the Welsh are a peaceable and poetic people, not given to ostentatious display. Perhaps the New Zealanders, too, would like to show us the better side of their nature.
Comments:
goddammit these guys can whinge!  
Cry me a River!!!!  
Oh yeah


Whining just doesn't end does it?


Rasp. When was this article published in the Guardian


Love the "welcome home all blacks" picture though



If only....
 
Few weeks back, David.

Man, the Poms can moan a mountain down.

Speaking of which, where is St Michel? Looking forward to your upcoming interview with the chap in the days ahead.
 
And the boks is still the only team in 2005 with a All Black scalp  
Rasp


It will be one to remember
 
David,

Tuesday November 22, 2005 to be precise.
 
Rasp ???  
I tend to agree with the journo.

Look, a bunch of kiwis drawing a line across their throats concerns me far less than someone bumping into me in the pub and knocking my drink.

But this is a battle that needs to be fought.

Should the Boks aspire to win the WC, that would be the cherry on top of our climb to world domination.

Their are many battles to be fought until then.....at least half of them aren't on the rugby fields but in board meetings and IRB chin wags....

The Kiwis get away with seemingly anything.We should challenge this.....weather we agree with it or not.

SA just lost a WC bid when anyone will tell you that we are the best country to host it....why?

We need to adopt a "fuck 'em all" attitude.Do what suits us.....no friends in this game.

People say that SA rugby has lost a lot of credibility of late, we no longer hold the popular vote of old......I say..."Make them all fucking hate us!!!"

When this happens you know we will have made it back to the top.

Challenge the new Haka, get the Kiwis bickering amongst themselves for a change.Keep challenging it until they stop.If they don't stop, make the Boks stand under the posts while it goes on.Boo while it is carried out.If they don't respect our wishes, why should we respect their history and tradition? Make the Kiwis players unsure of what they are to do when the booing and intimidation starts.If we were to start this, it would catch on quickly world wide.When the Kiwi supporters are too embarressed to go to games.....or too bloody shit scared because of the kicking they might get---it would be mission accomplished in my opinion.

Fuck 'em all.....that's the way forward.
 
StP


You are so right



Remember the 1995 RWC final when the Kiwis did the haka and the Boks stood arm in arm in a straight line facing them and as they started, the Boks started advancing on them till they did the jump and the Boks were right up against them and Ruben Kruger and Jonah Lomu were face to face having a staring competition.



Then the Kiwis manage to get the IRB to change the rules to say

"Nobody may come past the 10m line while we're doing the haka"


Why?


Cos that scared them. For the first time in their lives an opponent DID NOT fear or respect the haka or its tradition and showed them that.

I agree with you. We should banter and fight in the IRB. Our journalists should actually join the Poms and campaign against the Haka. The whole tradition crap is gone with this new Paula Abdul choreographed dance


If they can Haka, then everyone can.


Our players, onfield, should go out of their way to show disrespect and disdain for the Haka and the SA crowds should follow suit.
 
You don't even have go back to 95. Just remember Newlands this year.

The crowd even drowned out the microphone that was close to the AB's. It is nice slamming the Poms for their whining, but I agree we need to stand up to them and scare the shit out of them while they are doing the haka.

Respect of the field is fine, but like Jacque Fourie said in his profile interview: " I don't respect any of my opposition on the field, because if I do, they are going to get the better of me."

We don't need to show anybody respect when we take to that field.
 
David,

The date the article was published, you asked earlier....

On the haka, it doesn't bother me one way or another. I enjoy it but like St Pete says, if it can be used to get up the noses of the Kiwis and disturb their equilibrium, then why not!! Hell knows, we need every possible weapon.

I still miss SA fielding the Zulu guys to the tune of Jonny Clegg, that sent shivers down my spine. Should be revived, at least for all home matches.

Any idea why they stopped it?
 
The best way of making a mockery of the Haka is to nail the AB's on the field-otherwise the rethoric around their "tradition" is spinning ala poison dwarf and therefore an "anachcronism"

I agree that we must emulate JF's attitude at all times- all levels- especially S14- and just beat the AB's

I we cannot do that then we must endure the Haka

That rule (by the IRB) is stupid and should be challenged
 
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