FOR more than a century the traditional Maori haka dance has evoked a mixture of fear and awe on rugby fields around the world.
But New Zealand officials believe the All Blacks may have gone too far in their efforts to intimidate their sporting rivals. Ahead of tomorrow's Test match against Ireland, the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) yesterday asked its players to refrain from a controversial throat-cutting gesture that they introduced into the haka last year.
"We were aware of the reaction in some quarters of the public to "Kapa O Pango" and in particular to the gesture at the end of the haka," said Chris Moller, the NZRU chief executive, referring to the haka that the team worked on for more than 12 months and unveiled last August before a clash against South Africa.
"We don't want it performed until such time as this issue has been worked through," he added.
According to the Rugby Museum Society of New Zealand, the haka was performed on the rugby field as early as 1884 in the Australian state of New South Wales, when the New Zealand team "used a Maori war cry to introduce itself to its opponents before each of its matches".
The dance, called "Ka Mate", tells the story of the warrior chief Te Rauparaha's escape from his enemies after a 19th-century battle. According to the museum society, the new haka took a year to write and arose from a discussion within the team about what it meant to be an All Black. "Kapa O Pango" celebrates the land of New Zealand, the iconic silver fern emblazoned on their rugby jerseys and the warriors dressed in black.
It was also intended to reflect the diverse cultures and traditions that make up New Zealand society and the All Blacks team.