Veteran scrumhalf Aaron Smith has shed light on how the All Blacks decide which haka they will perform prior to a Test match.Rugby fans all over the globe have frequently weighed in on the reasons why Ka Mate, the more traditional haka, is performed instead of the more modern Kapa O Pango version.
There is a perception that Kapa O Pango is set aside for more highly respected opposition, while other views suggest that Ka Mate is the favoured pick for matches against the All Blacks’ biggest rivals.
Speaking during a lengthy podcast with Rugby Bricks, however, the 31-year-old clarified the simple decision-making process of selecting which haka will be performed on game day.
According to the New Zealand Herald, Smith noted the procedure is ‘not as built up as people think’ and that the haka is ‘not our priority’.
‘The captain selects it, selects who to lead it,’ said Smith. ‘As we run out [to the captain’s run] he’ll say what haka we’re going to do, “This week we’re going do Kapa O Pango”… or Ka Mate, it’s not in a meeting or anything, it’s just said then. ‘And TJ [Perenara] goes around and says where you’re going to stand.’
Smith also revealed that there is in fact a way to predict when the All Blacks captain will decide on Ka Mate as the haka of choice before a specific Test.
‘If new guys come in we practise it with them. So, if we we’re playing a first Test and it’s some guy’s first game we’re not going to do Kapa O Pango because we don’t need him scared about playing and scared of doing the haka, because it can be quite overwhelming,’ said Smith.
‘New Zealanders have all done Ka Mate when they’re drunk or as a kid … we’ve all done it at a party … we all know Ka Mate, but Kapa O Pango‘s a whole other kettle of fish.’
The performance of the ceremonial Maori challenge has long been a topic of debate, with many cynics claiming that it has become cliche and that the All Blacks place too much emphasis on the haka.
However, Smith’s admissions disregards the notion that the All Blacks devote a great deal of their attention to the haka.
‘We do a lot of work at it early in the season and then we’re like “Cool, we got this.” And you never forget it,’ continued Smith. ‘We do it at captain’s run … so it’s not like you go into a game and haven’t done it since last Saturday.
‘Captain’s run day you practice everything you would do, pretty much, for a game. So warm-up, we’d go out, you’d have your own time, come do the haka, go straight into captain’s run, get a kick-off, exit.’
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