Front Page







World Summary

On Air


Talking Point


Text Only


Site Map

Monday, November 10, 1997 Published at 12:51 GMT

Special Report: All Blacks on tour

Trademark haka designed to intimidate

Rugby is a life and death affair to the All Blacks according to the opening lines of their trademark Maori dance at the start of every game.

Opposition teams have adopted differing tactics to deal with the intimidating challenge of the haka which is carried out with aggressive stares, stamping feet and chanting.

Some stare straight back, others huddle together in a tight bond to maintain their team spirit. David Campese, the recently retired Australian winger and fullback, preferred to ignore the ritual completely and warm up with a rugby ball until the New Zealanders leapt into the air at the end of the dance.

There seem to be variations on the origin of the haka but it was first performed in the UK by a visiting New Zealand team in 1888-9. The haka was first used by the modern All Blacks on their debut tour in 1905.

The words of the Ka Mate haka read:

Ka mate, Ka mate, Ka ora, Ka ora,
Tenei te tangata puhuru huru
Nana nei i tiki mai
Whakawhiti te ra
Upane, ka upane
Upane, ka upane whiti te ra

Roughly translated, the haka means:

I die, I die. I live, I live
This is the hairy man
Who fetched the sun
And caused it to shine again
One upward step, another upward step
An upward step, and another, the sun shines.

The song relates to a 19th century Maori chief called Te Rauparaha of the Ngati Toa tribe who was being chased by his enemies.

He hid in a kumara pit which is a hollow for storing sweet potatoes. When sunlight flooded into the pit he initially thought that he had been discovered. But when his eyes adjusted to the light he saw the hairy legs of a local chief who had concealed him from his pursuers.

The words do not have any direct relevance to the game of rugby but the intention is well understood by the teams who have to face the fearsome All Blacks.

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]