Why the All Blacks have changed their haka for the Rugby World Cup

All Blacks star explains why New Zealand have made a small but significant change to their famous haka for the Rugby World Cup

  • Haka largely remained unchanged since All Blacks first used it 
  • First major change was in 2005, new addition in 2023  
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, fixtures, live scores and results
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

The New Zealand All Blacks may have suffered a 27-13 loss to France in their opening match of the Rugby World Cup, but they made a big statement with a key change to the world-famous haka. 

The haka’s history dates back centuries, with Maori tribes using it as both a war dance and a ceremonial ritual to showcase their unity and strength. 

Today, the haka holds immense cultural significance, symbolising honour, respect and identity among the Maori people. 

Its history in sport dates back to 1888-89 when the inaugural New Zealand representative rugby team, famously called The Natives, introduced the haka to British and Australian audiences on their first tour. 

The haka they performed at that time, known as Ka Mate, has endured and remains a cherished tradition performed by the All Blacks to this day.

Originally suppressed during colonial times, it experienced a revival as a symbol of Maori cultural pride and unity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

New Zealand’s Aaron Smith leads the haka at the Rugby World Cup holding a hoe, a traditional Maori paddle 

The introduction of the hoe was the first significant change to the haka performed by the team since 2005

There are several different versions of the haka. The most well-known is the Ka Mate, which 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, which was created in 2005 to acknowledge the team’s bicultural identity and features a throat-slitting gesture, symbolising drawing strength from the land. 

Now the New Zealand side have 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 with the carved wooden paddle during the haka in Paris and he explained the new addition to the Kiwis’ war dance.  

‘I was carrying a hoe [pronounced haw-eh] like a waka [Maori canoe] paddle,’ Smith said.

‘It was something special for our group. It aligns a little bit around our time in France.

‘World Cups are different and we wanted to add something unique to this group for this moment in time. 

‘It just felt like it was the right time, and it was very special to carry that hoe and represent our people back home.’ 

The All Blacks introduced the Kapa o Pango version of the haka in 2005, which includes a throat-slitting gesture (pictured)

The Irish team faces up to the All Blacks in 1989 as captain Wayne Shelford leads the haka

Beyond its primary function as a paddle, the hoe could also be used as a weapon when required. 

These intricately carved paddles held significant value and were considered the possessions of chiefs. 

Variations in hoe styles, handles, and blades were distinctive across different regions, reflecting the local cultural and design preferences. 

The All Blacks will be looking for a big win when they play Namibia in their second World Cup pool match in Toulouse on Saturday [AEST].

Catch every World Cup match ad-free, live and on-demand in 4K UHD on Stan Sport.

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