New Zealand
All Blacks almost ditched the haka
November 7, 2014
The All Blacks very nearly retired the haka before an alternative was created. © Getty Images

An All Blacks Test minus the traditional haka is almost unthinkable yet it very nearly became a reality when Graham Henry first took charge in 2004.

The haka returned to the rugby headlines this week as the United States got a rare taste of New Zealand culture before The Telegraph's chief feature writer Oliver Brown declared it as nothing more than a "circus display". That inspired an instant backlash in New Zealand but the revelation the All Blacks had considered retiring the haka in 2003 is sure to create far greater shockwaves.

"Back when Graham Henry took over in 2004 we went through a period we were asking questions about the haka," New Zealand mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka The Telegraph. "A lot of the guys said 'hang on, I'm not sure if we even want to do it anymore. Perhaps this is no longer for us'. I think we had just lost that connection. New Zealand being a bicultural nation and that connection to who they were as New Zealanders and the bringing together of the different cultures."

Senior All Blacks players and skipper Tana Umaga reportedly met with management to discuss the merits of the haka, with suggestions it had begun to hinder their early on-field performance. But after later consulting with Maori elders it was decided the traditional "Ka Mate" haka needed a companion and thus "Kapa O Pango" was created.

"Rather than trying to replace Ka Mate Ka Mate, it was actually giving Ka Mate a brother so that on any given day we have got any option that we like," team manager Darren Shand said. "We have a huge respect for Ka Mate because in New Zealand it is a national treasure. What you understand from the Maori people is that it is the culture they are giving us so we are hugely respectful of that. But having something of our own, that we have created for us is important for us."

The All Blacks meet England at Twickenham on Saturday but it remains to be seen which haka the visitors choose to employ. It may well prove to be 'Kapa o Panga', which is famous for its apparent throat slit, following Brown's controversial column earlier this week.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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