Monday, November 07, 2005

Defeating The Haka

There are many things that annoy me about New Zealand rugby. Graham Henry. Tana Umaga. Carlos Spencer. The spear tackle. The forward pass. Ignoring all semblance of nationality and making a virtue out of siphoning off the best players from the South Sea Islands. The thing that annoys me above anything else, however, is the haka.

Sure, it might be traditional. And in a funny sort of way, I guess it's quaint, too - look at those funny colonials doing their strange little dance. But it has no place in a competitive sport whatsoever. The playing of a national anthem before an international gives a sense of occasion and importance to the game that helps set it apart from a mere club match. Yet the haka is used by New Zealand purely as a motivational tool. Sure, they've been forced to make some changes - they're no longer allowed to stand in their opponents' faces as they do it. And no-one can jump at the end. The point still remains; it is a means of psyching their team up, and their opponents out, which isn't afforded to any other team in international rugby.

Wales showed the right attitude towards the haka yesterday. It was performed after the New Zealand national anthem, but before the Welsh one. And after that, the Welsh orchestrated a rousing rendition of "Bread of Heaven" (I may not be a huge fan of Welsh rugby, but the atmosphere when the crowd is in song is utterly fantastic). All designed to place the haka in distant memory. Which is where it belongs.