The Haka


Poetry appears in the funniest places.  Today the All Blacks (the New Zealand Rugby Union International Team) played, and beat Scotland in Murrayfield.  Before each game the All Blacks perform a Maori ritual battle challenge commonly called the ‘Haka’.

There are many Hakas and the one performed by the All Blacks is more properly called the ‘Ka Mate’.  In the sporting world there is no more frightening display of aggression, physicality and sheer danger.  The Haka is intended to make the enemy quail in fright and run before battle even begins.  It works.  Many teams have psychologically lost the game before the first ball is kicked.  For every team in the world the All Blacks are the team to beat.  Scotland have never beaten them, nor have Ireland, although the province of Munster can proudly boast of a win against the giants of Rugby.

The words of the Ka Mate sound less threatening in translation, but on the pitch you don’t hear the translation.  You get the full Maori version, complete with thigh slapping, chest banging and tongue sticking.  The form of the Haka has varied over time, and each All Black captain has the option to put his own mark on the display.

Here is a very special version, with a Munster team fielding four All Blacks who gave as good as they got from the team.

The text of the Ka Mate celebrates the survival of one Maori chief who was hidden in a pit by a friendly neighboring chief during a tribal war, and rose again to see off his enemies. Here is the original Maori text of the poem, and a translation.

Ka mate, ka mate
Ka ora’ Ka ora
Ka mate, ka mate
Ka ora Ka ora
Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru
Nāna i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā
A Upane! Ka Upane
A Upane Kaupane
Whiti te rā

I die, I die,
I live, I live
I die, I die,
I live, I live
This is the hairy man
Who caused the sun to shine again for me
Up the ladder, Up the ladder
Up to the top
The sun shines