Guest writer David Lawrence writes from New Zealand to explain the haka – fascinating stuff!

Over the years following various sports I have endeavoured to absorb the response of those who fear, can’t stand, are bored or feel threatened watching the haka. Watching? Seriously? The ones that matter the most are those who front up to it, sans, Richard Cockerill, Willie Anderson, RWC11 France, 2008 Wales. Each team or individual that fronts up to the haka will tell you various theories on their interpretation of the haka but most will say they respect it.

Richard Cockerill said after being censured by the English media and the RU:

“I believe that I did the right thing that day, they were throwing down a challenge and I showed them I was ready to accept it. I’m sure they would rather we did that than walk away.”

My response to that is, he is absolutely correct. Respect.

The haka is nothing to be afraid of. In fact the greatest respect as an opponent is to face it, absorb it and definitely use it to your advantage. Some say it provides an unfair advantage to the performer. Personally it has no more advantage to a NZ sports team than Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, Waltzing Matilda, Swing Low Sweet Chariot or La Marseilles when sung by the supporters of those teams. How powerful is the Welsh or French supporter in full voice singing over the haka. Let’s be honest, the above mentioned responses are a version of a haka, your haka.


Firstly, the haka is a performance of recognition, belief, acknowledgement, and most importantly respect. It has traditional values to Maori and New Zealanders as a whole. It is an expression of passion and identity and is a challenge or war cry. It was and is to this day used to challenge the team performing it to do their best knowing that the spiritual owners of that haka are with them. It is also a challenge to the opponent to give their best and an acknowledgement of them as respected foe.

Haka is also ceremonial. The NZ Armed Forces and Police acknowledging each other especially those who have fallen. Haka is used at school functions to not only welcome visitors or new entrants or Adiministration but to farewell those who leave and those who also pass away. Haka is celebrated at weddings, births and tangi (funerals) Haka has a diverse respectful use here in NZ and globally and has a huge respect from those performing it and those receiving it.


Palmerston North Boys High School farewells a teacher

Google College Haka and see what it means to sport in schools. Each school, college has their own haka mostly aligned with their region. Check closely who is performing their haka and you will find not just Maori but European, Asian and Pacific Islanders in fact an eclectic mix of nations giving their heart and soul to “their” haka. Watch their faces and feel what they feel. The evident, enthusiastic passion from this melting pot of pride

A typical College rugby haka

In NZ sport parlance each haka has relevance to the tribe, Iwi, hapu (people) of that area. Sports teams perform their haka from their region. But if you are playing international sport, you will most probably get Kamate. The NZ rugby league team The Kiwi’s have Te Iwi Kiwi, the All Blacks have Kapa o Pango alongside Kamate.

NZ Army haka, fare welling a fallen comrade

Kapa o Pango is specifically the All Blacks own haka. It was written for them in 2004 and first performed v Springbok’s in 2005. It is an acknowledgement of that Black jersey and the player as an AB. The All Blacks wanted something that they could relate to solely for themselves. Remember most people do Kamate anytime anywhere. The AB players without diminishing the relevance or importance of Kamate recognised this and sought guidance from the Ngati Toa tribe (Wellington) the recognised marae or spiritual Maori home of the All Blacks. Derek Lardelli was commissioned to write and teach the whakapapa (meaning) of this haka to the AB’s.

Kapa o Pango explained

Here are the words and meaning to to Kapa o Pango

(apologies – sone of the accents on letters are missing)

Taringa whakarongo!                   Let your ears listen

Kia rite! Kia rite! Kia mau! Hi!    Get ready! Line Up! Steady! Yeah!

Kia whakawhenua au i ahau!      Let me become one with the land

Hi aue, hi!                                          (Assertive sounds to raise adrenaline)

Ko Aotearoa e nginguru nei!        New Zealand is rumbling here

Au, au, aue hi!

Ko Kapa o Pango e ngunguru nei! The Team in Black is rumbling here

Au, au, aue ha!

I ahaha!

Ka tu te Ihiihi                                         Stand up to the fear

Ka tu te Wanawana                               Stand up to the terror

Ki runga ki te rangi                               To the sky above!

E tu iho nei, tu iho nei, hu!                 Fight up there, high up there. Yeah!

Ponga ra!                                                   The shadows fall

Kapa o Pango, au hi!                               Team in Black, yeah!

Ponga ra!                                                    Darkness Falls!

Kapa o Pango, aue hi, ha!                      Team in Black, Yeah, Ha!

Kamate was first performed by the AB’s in 1906

It is said that this Haka was performed by Te Raupraha to acknowledge him escaping death in 1810. He hid in a pit under the skirt of a woman. When he came out he found an ally in another chief waiting for him. As thanks he performed Kamate to thank his saviour.

Here are the words and meaning to Kamate


Ringa pakia!                                            Slap the hands against the thighs!

Uma ririha!                                              Puff out the chest!

Turi whatia!                                             Bend the knees!

Hope whai ake!                                        Let the hips follow!

Waewae takahia kia kino nei hoki!    Stomp the feet as hard as you can!

Ka mate, ka mate                                     You die, you die


Ka ora’ Ka ora’                                          I live, I live


Ka mate, ka mate                                     You die, you die


Ka ora’ ka ora’                                           I live, I live


Tenei te tangata puhurunhuru            This is the hairy man

Nana ne i tiki mai whakawhiti te ra  Who caused teh sun to shine again for me

A Upane! Ka Upane!                                 Up the ladder, up the ladder

A Upane Kaupane                                      Up to the top

Whiti te ra                                                     The sun shines

Hi!                                                                     Rise


In closing, before you deride the Haka.
I am aware that many people globally have little recognition of where they came from, their origins or the importance of their genealogy (whakapapa). Some couldn’t care less or are just not interested in their forebears, the struggles they went through to be recognised by not only their peers but others also. That’s fine I respect your right to live your life that way. But it bothers me when those same people demean what is sacrosanct to me and most New Zealanders, not just Maori. To demean or rubbish the haka and what is a traditional belief and a part of our life by those who have little or no respect for their own earns my ire. To those who have acknowledged their past, history, genealogy and who want to knock what is mine you don’t have that as of right. This is who I am, this is me being a New Zealander. When you demean the Haka you demean me.

So what does haka mean to me as a sportsman as a Maori as a New Zealander as a man?

It means I have something to hold close to my heart. It means it is in my heart. It means I am safe. It means I can celebrate being Maori. It means I can celebrate the Pakeha (European) in me. It means I am a New Zealander. It means pride. It means me.

The haka still gives me chills when I watch it and I get those same chills when I perform it.

Kia ora me whutuporo whanau (Thank you my rugby family)

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