A University of Canterbury researcher has received a grant worth more than $300,000 to research the influence of Maori culture on rugby.
Professor Richard Light, the university's new head of sport and physical education, received the $330,000 Australian Research Council discovery grant with another researcher from Sydney to research the influence of Maori culture on rugby in New Zealand and the Maori conceptions of wellbeing.
He said the haka was one of the most famous rituals in international sport and held great meaning for the All Blacks and other New Zealanders.
Many rituals were shared by teams around the world and worked as a function to integrate the individuals into a team as a single entity, Mr Light said.
"These rituals move the players, stage by stage, from the civilian life to the intensity of rule-bound battle on the sacred ground that few of us can ever truly understand.
"The Richie McCaw that will take on the Wallabies pack in Sydney on Saturday night will not be the same Richie McCaw you might see on the weekend in Christchurch," Mr Light said.
"Leading up to the match teams have a similar progressions of rituals that intensify bonds between players, integrate them into the team and prepare them for battle.
"Donning the team's and nation's colours is a symbolic act but with more meaning than just having had to earn the jersey. They also mark entry into, and believing in, the culture of the team and its values that will be enacted on the field."
Once out of the changing room, the final ritual for the All Blacks was the haka - a spectacular ritual that had a powerful influence both on the team performing it, and also on the team facing it, Mr Light said.
"Although there have been complaints about how it can intimidate the opposition, all teams respect it as part of rugby heritage and a spectacle that sets rugby apart from other sports.
"On show for the whole world, the haka also confirms shared cultural beliefs and values for New Zealanders.
"It communicates much about New Zealand culture to the outside world and about the successful integration of Maori and Pakeha culture on and off the rugby field."