Te Arawa has laid down the challenge with a spirited welcoming to open the 2013 Te Matatini Kapa Haka Festival.
More than 200 Maori warriors performed a spine tingling pohiri (welcome) at the Rotorua International Stadium yesterday, welcoming the 41 teams competing at the biennial kapa haka nationals.
Ngati Whakaue descendant Richard Wharerahi was one of three warriors who performed the wero (challenge) to more than 1000 manuhiri (visitors) and dignitaries which included Te Arikinui Kiingi Tuheitia the Maori King.
Mr Wharerahi, who regularly performs the wero for the premiere Te Arawa marae Te Papaiouru, said it was a huge honour to be one of the warriors to perform yesterday.
"Definitely it was an honour to do it ...
"It's a big privilege to do something like this because the whole country is here."
The 30-year-old said what made the occasion more significant for him was having his fellow challengers Te Iwingohengohe Tahuriorangi the brother of the great Te Arawa orator Te Irirangi Tiakiawa Tahuriorangi and Herora Mohi at his side.
"Herora is the moko (grandchild) of Mita Mohi who is the principal of the Mokoia Island Maurakau school and it's a great pleasure to do matataki and wero with the Mohi whanau and the Tahuriorangi whanau because they are great masters in weaponry."
Mr Wharerahi said he had no nerves performing the challenge in front of so many people.
"When you've got the Te Arawa nation behind you, it's definitely big encouragement and I might be being boastful, but we have the greatest [taiaha] fighters here and to have the greatest fighters at the back of you - it actually eases the pressure."
The four-day competition starts today and sees teams from throughout New Zealand and three groups from Australia challenging for the right to hold the Duncan McIntyre Trophy for best overall group.
Competition got under way this morning with the South Island group Te Kotahitanga the first on stage.
The Te Arawa hosts have six groups performing at this year's nationals, with Kataore first up this afternoon at 2.27pm.
Mr Tahuriorangi said it was difficult to choose which Te Arawa group to support especially with three groups having links to his iwi Ngati Pikiao.
"I've got three groups [I'm supporting] Te Mataarae then there is Nga Potiki a Hinehopu and of course we can't miss Kataore.
"I am really proud of our Ngati Pikiao groups because they are performing on behalf of Te Arawa."
The 41 groups are divided into three pools with the top three from each group to perform in the final session on Sunday.
Te Mataarae i Orehu are the current national champions and are looking to hold the title for the third time.
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