“Rugby is a game, rooted in traditions” – These were the first words written into my rookie manual when I began playing rugby. The traditions of the game is on thing that helps keep the rugby culture alive, vibrant, unique, and respectful. I remember learning our pre-game chant. We started every match with it, and the other team had one as well. The men’s and women’s clubs all had one, and it was part of the game as much as “Three cheers for the sir!” is afterwards.
However on the world stage, is there a place for this still in the sport? Ewan MacKenna from Pundit Arena poses the question if it’s unfair that only one team continues this outside of the locker room, center field, and the other team has to watch it.
Now if I went to any match with the All Black, Maori, or Black Ferns and did not see the Haka, I would feel slightly cheated. There was nothing quite like Solider Field being so quiet you could hear a pin drop, before the ceremonial Maori war chanting began. This opinion is as a spectator. MacKenna in his article, says that it has become a spectacle, and gives the All Blacks an unfair advantage.
Imagine going into your match, your premier at World Cup, and your fans, all ready cheering for the other team because the All Black Haka performance is that big of a thing. Or your warm up stopping, and your muscles starting to cool down as you wait for the other team to take time that no other team is afforded.
During the opening match for the All Black in this year’s World Cup, there was chanting in the stands. Fans were livid to hear Ole Ole Ole, being shouted over the haka. There are strict rule that World Rugby imposes on other teams during the Haka, as well as stadiums, photographers, news coverage etc. So if no other team’s pregame chants happen after a certain playing level for all to see, should the All Blacks be allowed to? Should other teams have to watch it during their warm up time?
At first reading of the MacKenna article, I thought he was out of his mind, with the inciting headline. After reading his words, he does have a point on the athletic stance. Should all pregame traditions be honored? Does this give them an advantage? Personally I think it is well know it’s coming and expected, but a distraction none the less for players who have their game ready brain on to then be mandated to watch the Haka.