New haka the cutting edge of sport

By Jon Stokes

A throat-cutting gesture at the end of a fierce new All Black haka symbolises the cutting edge of sport and not the slaughter of opponents, says the haka's composer.

The haka, unveiled before the Carisbrook test and in front of a stoic South African squad, set the scene for a dramatic 31-27 All Black victory.

Explaining the gesture, composer and haka expert Derek Lardelli said: "Playing rugby at this level, with this intensity, is the cutting edge of sport.

"The players are on the knife edge. They are gladiators in the arena. If they win they are heroes, if they lose they are taken apart."

Mr Lardelli urged understanding of the throat-cutting gesture - performed with particular feeling by halfback Piri Weepu.

He said it was symbolic of the intensity of first-class rugby, and the consequences of defeat.

Saturday's performance of Kapa O Pango (Team in Black) was the culmination of more than a year's development, and it left the Ngati Porou man humbled and proud at the energy and passion displayed by the team.

Mr Lardelli said calls by All Black captain Tana Umaga and senior players for something that better represented them had prompted the new haka, an alternative to the more traditional Kamate Kamate.

"[They] wanted a haka that said who they were, where they are from, and to create a legacy they wanted to leave for future All Blacks."

Mr Lardelli said the haka was not composed as a replacement for Kamate Kamate, but as an alternative.

"Haka is about harnessing the physical and mental power within yourself, and building unity. If it affects your opposition, then that is their choice."

Springbok captain John Smit said: "To stand there and watch it for the first time was a privilege."

Ngati Toa chairman Robert Solomon scoffed at claims that the change was driven by copyright claims from descendants of his tribe's ancestral chief Te Rauparaha.

"The All Blacks have used our haka since I was a boy," he said.

"If they perform a new one that is their choice. We are honoured they have used our taonga for so long.

"The new haka contributed to the game. It was brilliant."

Haka expert Dr Pita Sharples said the haka was completely appropriate and in accordance with Maori tradition.

"You compose your own stuff to represent who you are. They talked of the black jersey and the silver fern, their relationship with the land. I thought that was all marvellous."

Dr Sharples said it was appropriate that Umaga led the haka because "his wife's a Maori from Ngati Porou".

"He is captain and leader. Provided he is skilled in the presentation of haka then he is entitled to lead, and he does a bloody good job. God, he does a good job."

All Black rugby legend Colin Meads applauded the change and said he believed it had helped to inspire the All Blacks and the crowd.

But former New Zealand Maori captain and All Black prop Billy Bush labelled the new haka politically correct.

He blamed concerns by South island iwi Ngai Tahu, who suffered severe defeats at the hand of Te Rauparaha, for prompting the change.

"It's like everything else in this day and age, it is politically correct. Ngai Tahu have probably said something about it. I prefer Kamate, particularly overseas."

A spokesman for the Rugby Union yesterday rejected Mr Bush's claims, while Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon said his board had not raised the issue or discussed it with the rugby union.

Former All Black wing and Manu Samoa rugby coach Bryan Williams said the haka was a moving experience for him. He applauded the inclusion of Polynesian influences and felt it was an encompassing display.

Mr Lardelli said the haka retained traditional Maori actions and words and incorporated actions from a number of traditional haka.

"Haka is a point of identity and a point of difference - for Maori and on the world stage for all New Zealanders."

WHAT THE HAKA SAYS

Kapa o pango kia whakawhenua au i ahau!
Let me become one with the land
Hi aue, hi!
Ko Aotearoa e ngunguru nei!

This is our land that rumbles
Au, au, aue ha!

And it's my time! It's my moment!
Ko Kapa o Pango e ngunguru nei!

This defines us as the All Blacks
Au, au, aue ha!

It's my time! It's my moment!
I ahaha!
Ka tu te ihiihi

Our dominance
Ka tu te wanawana

Our supremacy will triumph
Ki runga ki te rangi e tu iho nei,
tu iho nei, hi!

And will be placed on high
Ponga ra!

Silver fern!
Kapa o Pango, aue hi!

All Blacks!
Ponga ra!

Silver fern!
Kapa o Pango, aue hi, ha!

All Blacks!

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