Monday, October 29, 2007

All Blacks Haka - Time for a Change?

I’m taking a break from rugby so this will be my last post on that topic until the raw wounds from the All Blacks' demise in the Rugby World Cup heal. For some time, my friend and New Zealand Edge co-founder, Brian Sweeney, has been advocating a couple of dramatic changes involving the Haka. Brian thinks the All Blacks should do the Haka after a game, and only if they have won. I have the feeling that performing it before the game has become a distraction and might be emotionally de-energizing for the ABs. Going forward, it should be used as a reward to the team rather than an exhortation. The Sevens side, which has had unprecedented success over the last decade, uses the Haka in this way. As a reward and celebration.

Brian goes even one step further. He’d like to see the Haka set aside from every upcoming test and only used if we win the Rugby World Cup in 2011. It would become the ultimate reward for the team. I agree.

What say you?


Susan Plunkett said...

Disappointment. If I had ONLY gone in person. If ONLY I had given a better answer. If ONLY I had worn a better outfit.

If ONLY's are often about regret and the desire to try and control (in a nice way).

Part of the art of learning about life is accepting that shite happens and we generally can't control 100% and that sometimes outcomes demand new things of us; new options etc.

If I held such an idea re the Haka I would ask the team. It's really up to the team to suggest that performing the Haka is "de-energising". So many sporting stars are highly superstitious that for individuals. NOT doing the Haka may be upsetting and distracting. Perhaps it pulls them into mentally peaking too early yet the Haka is part of the mindset.

However, if the idea has been publicly canvassed then I would suggest it not be dropped given the conceivable sledge that the AB's are getting so desperate they're starting to work on the 'charms' and not the substance.

Is it (and DO forgive me as Brian may have Maori heritage and I am not intending insult as I compose) 'white mans' response or interpretation of outcome? When the Haka etc were traditionally performed as war ceremonies/performance, were the men told they could not perform it again if they lost a battle? I could research it but perhaps there was a chant both before and after a battle?

Along these lines wouldn't the reward be to perform the additional chant?

In sum, I suspect playing around or changing an internationally recognised cultural symbol and equating that symbol purely with success (losers can't perform it or people who 'may' lose can't) a highly sensitive issue. To suggest an alteration to a traditional piece that is *supposed* to be performed prior to battle would be across grain I believe.

Talk to the players and talk to your Maori's elders. I suspect Brian's suggestion had arisen from a sense of desperation and disappointment and the need to arrive at options is very natural (and borne from commitment and desire).

Susan Plunkett said...

I apologise for the typos. Egad.

Kempton said...

I thought about this briefly. Here are my uninformed 2 cents.

Since the Haka takes a few minutes to perform and the players probably want to do a good job on that performance, I think it can be considered as a distraction right before a tough game especially against a strong opponent. Thinking this way, the opposing players will be waiting quietly/madly and planning and focusing on how to make the All Blacks pay for the Haka in the first few minutes.

Now, are there stats of the All Blacks' performance for the first 5-10 minutes of each game (assuming the Haka is always performed before every game)??

If the AB was doing great in the first 5-10 minutes of most games, then I don't think the Haka can be blamed. On the other hand, if the opposing team always performed "better" (as measured by possession time? score? by some other measures?) during the first 5-10 minutes, then the AB might have been distracted and the Haka should probably be dropped from the beginning of the game.

Now, if the Haka is viewed as a celebratory dance like the NFL players doing touch down dances/silly moves after they score, then may be doing the Haka ONLY after a win is a good way to motivate the team.

One way or another, by making a change, the players will know instinctively that it is no longer business as usual. And after a "worst tournament", it may not be a bad thing.

Quoting Wikipedia, "The 2007 World Cup saw their [All Blacks] worst tournament, being knocked out in the quarterfinals by the host nation of France; until this they were the only team to have reached the semifinals of every tournament"

It must suck. But sometimes something good will come out as a result of something awful.

Good luck and love to hear what is decided at the end. So may be one more post on AB later?

David MacGregor said...

I think it is dangerous to over-react in times of stress.

In the 80's Coca-Cola had the wind put up them by the Pepsi Challenge campaign. Consumers said they preferred the taste of Pepsi.

So Coke change the recipe and made New Coke (which tasted like Pepsi).

I think we all know the consequence of that decision.

"Keep your head when all about you are losing theirs"

or in your own famous words:

Kia kaha.

The ABs didn't lose because of the Haka. It ain't broke…

Allison said...

I remember as a small child leaping up and doing the Haka with the All Blacks before every match. It is what we grow up with in our schools, a part of our lives, and although I am not of Maori descent, I feel it as a strong part of our NZ identity. When the All Blacks are doing the Haka, it is so powerful, that I become transfixed, and feel an intense sense of pride, whether they have been winning or losing recent games. It’s almost like a rite of passage for them passing from individual to team status. Telling them not to perform a Haka would be a bit like telling the English crowds not to chant/sing at a soccer match until their team wins. It would be like removing their identity. I think the NZ public at large would not support the Haka being removed from the beginning of the game.

I too am gutted about the refereeing and subsequent loss of the World Cup game, but don’t think that changing the way our identity is portrayed is an answer.


creator said...

who goes into battle without first pshycing themselves up? The haka is an war cry not a victory lap! They're two entirely different rituals. Haka is a unified declaration we're here to do you guys! A victory lap is celebration of a battle won! Whoever thought up this stupid idea is a poof!

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I'd have to agree with you, David. Why blame something that isn't part of the game on the game's performance. I mean, yeah, if the Haka involved doing windsprints across the field, it would be questionable.

In this case, I've always believed that the Haka was a way to motivate everybody. Just like football players may bash helmets before the game, it's a way to pump oneself up for the game. The 'war haka' was used as a tool "proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition". Intimidation is a great factor in terms of contact sports. I remember playing varsity football, and our coach would always have our player nail the first freekick into the wall as hard as he could. Unethical as it may seem, more often than not the wall wasn't as cohesive the second time around. Intimidation.

Needless to say, regardless of whether they use the Haka as a form of intimidation before the game or as a form of a reward after the game, I really don't think that it would have that big of an effect on the match. The outcome of the game is decided in the 80 minutes people are on the pitch, not before or after.

Paul Banks said...

Kevin - after years of raving on the subject, why the need for a sudden break from rugby? Your past blogs have been full of praise for the All Blacks - both the team and management. It certainly makes interesting reading to look back over your past musings. But since their Cardiff disaster, you've managed only one brief comment - aimed at the referee and not at the inept performance or questionable coaching. Now more than ever we need to know your views on player rotation, conditioning and World Cup Holidays. Is Doug Howlett less of a lovemark following his bizarre attacks on parked cars?

I'm confused by your silence. Are you embarrassed by your misplaced faith in the All Blacks? Have you run out of wisdom and ideas to help them back on track. Or are you simply in denial? Please - tell us more. We are desperate to know what went wrong!

Kevin Roberts said...

Susan – Thanks for your comment, Brian’s thinking comes from ‘The Edge’. It’s a simple non-conformist, why-don’t-you-try-it-this-way-instead-of-the-way-it’s-always-been-done approach. Often the best way forward is to tackle problems in this way. Where would we be without people that challenge the status quo?...Mud huts…raw meat…bare feet.

Kevin Roberts said...

Creator - The Haka that the All Blacks perform is not a war dance, it was written by the Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha. He was being chased by enemies and while hiding said ‘Ka mate Ka mate’ (I die, I die). When he was not found he cried ‘Ka Ora, Ka Ora’ (I live, I live). So I guess you could say that this haka is a ‘victory lap’.

Kevin Roberts said...

Paul – Yes, I was very disappointed with the result. After the ‘99 game an Irish publican told me that just like a rugby ball can bounce either way when it falls to the ground, so can the result. You can have the faster, stronger, better team, and win most of the possession, territory, rucks, mauls - and still lose the game! The All Blacks are the greatest team in the world, but the World Cup seems to have jinxed us and the ball keeps on bouncing the wrong way...and as a mate once told me 'De Nile is not only a river in Egypt'

Susan Plunkett said...

Well, I apparently stand corrected also alongside Creator.

On another comment:

"It’s a simple non-conformist, why-don’t-you-try-it-this-way-instead-of-the-way-it’s-always-been-done approach. Often the best way forward is to tackle problems in this way. Where would we be without people that challenge the status quo?...Mud huts…raw meat…bare feet."

Ok, so you want my grunt approach?

Brian, in skin of beast and hairy chest, has always seen a mogfart.
He thinks the mogfart should go away and something else be done. He suggests a doohick. He COULD also have suggested a farnarckle or a fangowango.

In other words, I'm not suggesting his process is amiss Kevin, indeed, from here his primal scent is pretty darn attractive, I just don't necessarily agree with his choice of option.


Btw..providing the parallel you did is somewhat of a stretch Kevin.

Like a record going right round round right round.. SPIN!!!! :)

Susan Plunkett said...

I felt the need to return to this as, again, it was not just Creator who expressed the war chant comment but I did also.

Now, I have just done a wee bit of research. Not much, just a week bit. And there is not just one Haka or at least one version of the Haka. The All Blacks Haka is of course Ka Mate (which has been chanted at games since around 1905) (?)

This is another Haka which I really enjoy.

So, at this point it could well be that Creator and I may have been incorrect about the Ka Mate version being a war cry however not incorrect about the haka being a war chant per se.

I would suggest you guys go to this page and open the link "Launch the Haka Feature" and consider whether you're still so keen to propose removing the tradition:

It's (forgive me) an easy argument to counter with (my phrasing of course) 'pah, ok, stay with the cave man if you like' but there are a 100 other issues that have existed since year dot that could equally be shifted (which was my point in the previous post).

I'd like to get Brian on a couch and explore just why of all things he's focused on that. Because it is in fact, as you suggest, a song that should only be a winners song?
I die. I live.

For some reason, I'd twist Brian's proposal around and treat it differently Kevin. I'd have them doing the Haka after a match (as well as before) when they lose. I die - but I live to fight again.

Because maybe its the inability to get past defeat that's a bigger issue than thinning out their energy pre match by way of Ka Mate.

Anyway Kevin, why isn't MY idea edgier than Brians!!! has to laugh. Boy's club. :)

andrew weir said...

Kevin’s blog (1/11/07)
I'm an Englishman and I love watching rugby. I particularly love watching the All Blacks (my parents are New Zealanders and I spent 2 fabulous years there in my youth).

I would be very disappointed if there was no Haka before each game. My view is a selfish one based purely on the fact that I think it is a fantastic spectacle that adds to the tension, drama and excitement before every game.