With the 2019 World Cup now underway, the haka is back as a topic of public discussion. It remains a point of contention within the modern rugby climate; does the Haka offer a psychological advantage to New Zealand, and if so, should it still be indulged?
The truth is that it may provide them with a mental edge prior to kick-off, but by the same token it surely inspires the All Blacks' opposition to a similar if not equal extent, while also providing fans - both in the stadium and watching from home - with one of the only guaranteed pieces of sporting theatre prior to kick-off. A constant, the novelty to which doesn't rub off for most.
Perhaps the most pertinent argument to abolishing the Haka on-field is that it offers New Zealand's players an opportunity to brace themselves physically for the heat of battle, as they're flexing and tensing muscles while the opposition remains static - an aspect which, particularly during winter in either hemisphere, is hardly ideal for the opposition. Of course, there are means of counter-acting such a potential disadvantage: Take the Haka on.
Here are the 10 greatest 'challenges' to the Haka from throughout its storied history.
10) Richard Cockerill vs Norm Hewitt, 1997
After staring each other down during the Haka in 1997, hookers Richard Cockerill and Norm Hewitt took their on-field rivalry out on to the streets. A year after that Old Trafford Test in 1997, both men were found brawling outside a taxi in drunken ruckus which left the England player with a black eye.
Result: 25-8 to New Zealand
9) France's 'Flying V', RWC 2011 final
Wearing their white away strip on Kiwi territory, the French - a long-standing bogey team for New Zeland in the Rugby World Cup - marched towards the Haka in a V-formation, as if a flock of migrating birds. Prop Fabien Marcella said of the decision:
It was a 'V' for victory, quite simply. It's the chance of a lifetime to play a final at Eden Park, we didn't want to miss out on it.
The French were fined £10,000 for their approach.
Result: New Zealand ended their 24-year nightmare with an 8-7 victory.
8) Tonga's 'Sipi Tau' vs the Haka, RWC 2003
Breaking from the current norm of one team performing their pre-match ritual before the other, Tonga and New Zealand went toe-to-toe with their respective traditional war-dances, creating a spine-tingling cacophony of noise. In truth it was as close as Tonga got to the All Blacks all evening.
Result: New Zealand won 91-7.
7) BOD and Dwayne Peel do their homework
In the long history of staring down the Haka, this was arguably the most ill-advised approach. In keeping with Maori culture, Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll approached the centre of the pitch accompanied by Dwayne Peel, and threw a blade of grass to 'accept' the All Black challenge. It was seemingly not appreciated.
Result: O'Driscoll almost paid with his life, as did the Lions as a concept.
6) Welsh standoff, 2008
It went from the stuff of legend from the Welsh to painfully awkward, and then back again. Three days before the game at the Millennium Stadium, Wales' Kiwi coach Warren Gatland alerted captain Ryan Jones and co. that the Haka only technically ends when the opposition turn away from it.
Flanker Martyn Williams then asked what would happen if no one turned away, and was met with shrugs of various shoulders. The rest, as they say...
Result: New Zealand won 29-9
5) Willie Anderson leads an Irish charge, 1989
Anderson's reasoning was that Lansdowne Road was Ireland's home ground, and the Sixmilecross man found it absurd that the Kiwis were mandated to get the first cheer of the day by "doing a dance." His umbrage birthed a legendary moment which, in many ways, changed the Haka forever, as he marched towards Buck Shelford and roused the Irish crowd. Shelford would later speak of his admiration for Anderson and Ireland's challenge.
Result: New Zealand won 23-6.
4) The dressing-room Haka, 2006
The Welsh again, although this was two years' prior to 2008's standoff at halfway. A year after the All Blacks had torn the Lions asunder down south, Wales demanded that their anthem be the last ceremonial process witnessed by the 72,000-strong crowd before kick-off. The All Blacks, in protest to Wales' plan to respond with Land Of Our Fathers, decided instead to perform the Haka indoors.
When asked if he would apologise, WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said:
I don't think anyone comes out well in this - both sides regret what happened on Saturday.
Particularly the Welsh, we'd suggest.
Result: New Zealand won 45-10.
3) Chabal's face, RWC 2007
You could count on one hand the number of New Zealanders who have forgiven Wayne Barnes for his performance during their 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-final with France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, and that hand could conceivably be fingerless.
Irrespective of refereeing errors on that occasion, the French pulled a France, and performed majestically where few believed they'd come within an ass's roar of their far superior opponents. It was Freddy Michalak who inspired them after kick-off, but it was Sale's Sebastian Chabal who set the tone during one of history's most memorable Hakas, staring down his adversaries until long after New Zealand's players had parted, offering nods of furrow-browed nods of acknowledgement throughout the process.
Result: France won 20-18 and knocked New Zealand out of the World Cup.
2) The Munster Haka, 2008
What was designed as a showpiece to mark the 30th anniversary of '78 would transpire to be a titanic struggle between two rugby strongholds, as 33/1 outsiders Munster, shy of 10 internationals, came within a hair's breadth of repeating a three decade-old feat.
The southern province's Kiwi contingent - Doug Howlett, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi and original project player Jeremy Manning - led a once-off Munster Haka, the four of them backed by the raucous roars of 26,000 frenzied fans. Then came silence, as the All Blacks responded beneath the weight of a famous Thomond hush. It was, and remains, the stuff of legend.
Result: New Zealand won 18-16
1) Campo's kicking practice in Dublin, RWC 1991
Australia would repeat the feat as a collective five years later, but iconic Wallaby outside back David Campese produced in 1991 what most consider to be the greatest Haka challenge of all time. 'Campo' refused to entertain the Haka as a concept, instead travelling back to the Aussie goal-line and practising his kicking as his teammates faced off against the old enemy near halfway.
In an ABC documentary entitled The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby, Australia head coach Bob Dwyer stated:
I must say that throughout the 1991 World Cup, and this semi-final match in particular, Campo was a standout performer. We all know what a great player he was over such a long period of time, but I’m sure that his first-half performance that day has never been beaten.
Indeed, the 101-cap international both scored and set up the decisive tries in that very World Cup semi-final, as Australia beat the All Blacks 16-6 at Landsdowne Road. Irish out-half Tony Ward went on to declare Campese the greatest rugby player of all time in the aftermath, and the Aussies claimed their first Rugby World Cup.
Result: Campese scored a try and made an assist, Australia won 16-6