The All Blacks star explains why New Zealand made a small but significant change to his famous haka for the Rugby World Cup
The New Zealand All Blacks may have suffered a 27-13 defeat to France in their opening game of the Rugby World Cup, but they made a big statement with a crucial change to the world-famous haka.
The history of the Haka goes back centuries. Maori tribes used it as both a war dance and a ceremonial ritual to demonstrate their unity and strength.
Today the haka has enormous cultural significance and symbolizes honor, respect and identity among Maori.
Its sporting history dates back to 1888-89, when the first New Zealand representative rugby team, known as The Natives, introduced the Haka to British and Australian audiences on their first tour.
The haka they performed back then, known as Ka Mate, endures to this day and is a treasured All Blacks tradition.
Originally suppressed during the colonial period, it experienced a revival in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a symbol of Maori cultural pride and unity.
New Zealand’s Aaron Smith performs the haka at the Rugby World Cup while holding a hoe, a traditional Maori paddle
The introduction of the pick was the first significant change to the haka that the team made since 2005
There are different versions of the Haka. Most famously, the Ka Mate is performed by the All Blacks and celebrates life and victory.
Another prominent version is the Kapa o Pango, also performed by the All Blacks. It was created in 2005 to recognize the team’s bicultural identity and features a throat-slitting gesture, symbolizing drawing strength from the land.
Now the New Zealand side has introduced another small but significant change to the iconic war dance in the form of a traditional hoe.
Veteran All Black and Haka leader Aaron Smith was seen holding the carved wooden paddle during the Haka in Paris, explaining the new addition to the Kiwi war dance.
“I carried a hoe [pronounced haw-eh] like a waka [Maori canoe] “Paddle,” Smith said.
“It was something special for our group.” It fits a little with our time in France.
“World Championships are different and we wanted to add something unique to this group for this moment.”
“It just felt like it was the right time and it was really special to wear that hoe and represent our people back home.”
The All Blacks introduced the Kapa o Pango version of the haka in 2005, which involves a throat-cutting gesture (pictured).
The Irish team meets the All Blacks in 1989, captain Wayne Shelford leading the haka
In addition to its primary function as a paddle, the hoe could also be used as a weapon if necessary.
These intricately carved paddles were of considerable value and were considered possessions of the chiefs.
Differences in pick styles, handles, and blades varied across regions, reflecting local cultural and design preferences.
The All Blacks will be looking for a big win when they take on Namibia in their second World Cup pool game in Toulouse on Saturday [AEST].