The All Blacks mauri stone has been handed over to the All Blacks Experience at SkyCity in central Auckland, a temporary home for the taonga while the All Blacks are not playing.
The sacred stone was gifted to the All Blacks in 2015 by Ngāi Tahu iwi when the All Blacks left to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup title in England. The taonga has since accompanied the team wherever they play, at home or overseas.
Now The All Blacks Experience team will act as kaitiaki (guardians) and will have the mauri stone in their possession until the team is ready for their next game.
The stone embodies the team's mana and offers them protection in their travels and on the field.
"The addition of the mauri stone adds another dimension to the rich cultural aspects of the Experience," All Blacks Experience General Manager Phil McGowan said.
McGowan says guests are encouraged to touch the stone, as it collects positive thoughts and wishes which can enhance the way the team co-operate on the field.
"In this way the mauri and support of the nation is passed on to the All Blacks."
The stone was handed over to the All Blacks Experience at a dawn ceremony this morning by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae, one of the 18 iwi of Ngāi Tahu, and the kaitiaki of the pounamu.
The event was attended by All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, All Blacks manager Gilbert Enoka and current and former All Blacks including Caleb Clarke, Akira Ioane, and Ian Jones.
Also in attendance were representatives of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei who participated in blessing the stone when it was gifted to the team.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahi chair Lisa Tumahai says, "Mauri is the life force, the essence or vitality of something. This beautiful taonga reflects the connection between the All Blacks and Ngāi Tahu and it's special to be here today alongside mana whenua from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to celebrate these enduring relationships."
The mauri stone is a large piece of pounamu in its raw state and was discovered by Gaye Tauwhare of Ngāti Waewae, in the Arahura River near Hokitika.
Pounamu is only found in Te Waipounamu, the South Island of New Zealand, mainly in Te Tai Poutini (the West Coast) and it has great significance for Ngāi Tahu, which has always been its kaitiaki.
The kowhaiwhai patterning on the plinth that holds the mauri stone has been designed specifically for the All Blacks Experience by well-known Ngāi Tahu artist and master carver Fayne Robinson. The kowhaiwhai tells the story of Poutini, the legendary taniwha who swims up and down the rough seas off Te Tai o Poutini protecting both the people and the mauri of pounamu.