Rugby: Blues, Crusaders and Chiefs to perform unique pre-match haka for Lions

By Tony Veitch

The Chiefs perform a haka before the International Test match between the Chiefs and Wales. Photo / Getty Images.
The Chiefs perform a haka before the International Test match between the Chiefs and Wales. Photo / Getty Images.

Three of New Zealand's Super Rugby franchises are set to make history during the British and Irish Lions tour.

The Blues, Crusaders and the Chiefs have been granted permission by New Zealand Rugby and the Lions to perform a pre-match haka unique to each side.

The Highlanders and Hurricanes were offered a similar opportunity but after holding discussions with their players have decided against it.

Nigel Cass, New Zealand Rugby's chief strategy and operations manager, confirmed the unique situation.

"To our delight, the Lions, who have never faced a haka outside of the Maori All Blacks and All Blacks, have embraced this opportunity for their first ever matches against New Zealand Super Rugby teams," Cass told the New Zealand Herald.

A Blues spokesperson said coach and former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga has been keen for sometime to see the Auckland-based franchises develop a haka that is unique to the franchise.

The Blues have been working with local Maori on a unique haka and see their match against the Lions at Eden Park on June 7 as the perfect time to unveil it.

Until now, the Chiefs are the only New Zealand Super Rugby franchise to have created a haka identifiable to their region.

He Piko, He Taniwha - has been delivered on three rousing occasions. Two of those were post-match when Dave Rennie's team won back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. Last year, the haka was performed pre-match against Warren Gatland-coached Wales. The Chiefs went on to thrash the tourists 40-7.

The video of the haka - which translates as "at every bend a Chief" - became a viral hit on social medial for rugby fans across the world.

Former Crusaders Andy Ellis admitted to surprise over the news his old teammates were keen to take on the challenge of a haka. But he quickly added that he likes the idea due to the magnitude of the Lions tour.

"I don't know what they're going to pull out or who's going to lead it, but we've got foreigners coming to our country to face our franchises and we're laying down the challenge....it's how we roll, I think it's cool," the former All Black said.

"It's got genuine meaning and mana, so if the Crusaders can make it special and make it more than just a haka for people to watch but make it almost spiritual, it will have some real power."

NZ Rugby has been working closely with each franchise and Lions management to make sure the pre-match entertainment is consistent across the 10-match tour.

"We have been talking to our other teams about whether they would like to perform a haka or have some other form of ceremonial presentation," Cass said.

The Highlanders are likely to go with a traditional southern themed pre-match ceremony with bag pipes likely to be at the fore.

Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee says the defending Super Rugby champions are still working on their pre-match rundown.

The Lions first match is against a Provincial Barbarians side in Whangarei on June 3. Barbarians president and former All Black prop Ron Williams told the Herald he was not aware of the Baa Baas being asked to perform a haka or any other form of pre-match ritual.

- NZ Herald

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