The Māori All Blacks say their formation during the Flying Fijians' haka on Saturday night was not malicious.

Some fans have commented on social media they felt disappointed after the Māori All Blacks appeared to have turned their back on the Fijian haka.

Rotorua local Donna-Maree Francis said she was "very sad to see them not show respect towards the Fijians' haka".

"We were looking forward to watching both teams do the haka but we didn't expect to see the Māori All Blacks turn their backs and not face the challenge from the visitors," she said.

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The Flying Fijian's Filipo Nakosi at the Maori All Blacks vs Fiji game on Saturday. Photo / Stephen Parker.
The Flying Fijian's Filipo Nakosi at the Maori All Blacks vs Fiji game on Saturday. Photo / Stephen Parker.

"It just wasn't the warm welcome we were expecting to see towards the visiting team."

But Māori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan said it had been taken out of context and it was just the way the team decided to start their own haka.

Māori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan. Photo / File
Māori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan. Photo / File

"There was no malice ... it was just the way the boys chose to start," he said.

Rotorua Lakes Council cultural ambassador and kapa haka expert Trevor Maxwell said their actions were not disrespectful and he was not offended.

Maxwell admired both haka through performing arts eyes and said the Māori All Blacks got into formation in preparation for their haka.

He said the team moved into a circle with the leader chanting in the middle and it was not an uncommon move for the pre-match ritual. The New Zealand Kiwis, the national rugby league team, did something similar, he said.

Rotorua Lakes Council cultural ambassador and kapa haka expert Trevor Maxwell was impressed with the showcasing of culture in the lead up to Saturday's match. Photo / File
Rotorua Lakes Council cultural ambassador and kapa haka expert Trevor Maxwell was impressed with the showcasing of culture in the lead up to Saturday's match. Photo / File

"To me, I was not offended," he said, noting it was always good to see people getting creative with Māori performing arts.

Maxwell said the match and the lead-up to the game was a great showcase of culture and the Fijian supporters were a stand out to him.

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"They outshine us as supporters ... the Fijian supporters really show passion," he said.

When the gates opened at 4.30pm, 12,800 tickets had been sold already and people from near and far came for the close game.

The Māori All Blacks came out on top at the home game, winning 26-17 after having lost to Fiji for the first time since 1957 at the weekend before, 27-10, in Suva.