Rugby – the pride of New Zealand

(VOVworld) – If football players around the world sing their national anthem before a match, rugby players in New Zealand perform the Haka, their traditional war dance. Rugby and Haka have become the pride of New Zealand thanks to their uniqueness and vigor. Let’s learn more about this legendary dance with Amber Harris, a New Zealand teacher, who has been living in Vietnam for 6 months. 

Q: Hello Amber Harris! Welcome back on VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous. New Zealand tops the current world rugby rankings. How popular it is in your country?

A: Rugby is our most popular sport. In New Zealand, Rugby is treated like something that brings everybody together. Everybody in New Zealand loves rugby and watches rugby. We’re very patriotic for our national team. We definitely come together where there’s a game on. New Zealand is such a small country with only four and a half million people. So when the All Blacks play, everybody is watching, the streets are quiet, shops close, businesses close down, and there is no car driving around. Everybody has their eyes on the TV and they’re watching the game. I think for us, rugby and the All Blacks bring the whole country together. It’s a community. Rugby is extremely important for bringing everyone together in New Zealand.

Q: What are the basic rules of rugby?

A: In a rugby team, we have 15 players. The basic rules are 15 people on each side, and you have to get the ball to the other end of the field. They’re going to tackling you. If one player has the ball from one team, the other players who’re at the front line has to tackle him, and tackling means to push him on the ground. They want to stop him from running any further. Often the captain of the rugby team is the one who will lead the Haka at the beginning of the game.

Q: The Haka? What is it?

A: The Haka is very special for New Zealanders. It is an ancient and traditional native dance. It’s from the Maori people. It’s basically the Haka that the All Blacks rugby team does before a game. There’re over 800 different styles of Haka in New Zealand. Sometimes the indigenous people use a Haka for a wedding or a funeral or the beginning of something, maybe a new building. But when the All Blacks perform the Haka before a rugby match, it’s for intimidation. We want to think we’re going to win and we want the other team to be scared. And when you see the Haka, it can be very intimidating.

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New Zealand's team perform the Haka before the Rugby World Cup 2015
(Photo: EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga)

Q: What do rugby players do in a Haka?

A: They use different styles of actions when they slap their legs, they slap their arms, and they have a very angry face. Hundreds of years ago, the native Maori used it as a dance to scare off colonization. And now we use it today in our rugby games.

Q: Why do the players show their angry faces? Is the Haka aggressive, too?

A: Yeah rugby is a very aggressive game anyway. It’s a lot of tackling, just jumping on top of each other and pulling other players down. The main aim of the game is to get the ball to the try line and score points. People break their bones, they have bloody noses. And also the Haka at the beginning of the match, people see it all over the world, this is very aggressive also. Because at the start of this game, we want to try to intimidate the other team.

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New Zealand's Brodie Retallick (C) is tackled by Argentina's Santiago Cordero (R) in a match between New Zealand and Argentina at Wembley in London, UK, 20 September 2015 (Photo: EPA)

Q: Why do you call your national team the All Blacks? Is this because they wear black T-shirts?

A: Yeah they wear black T-shirts so they look like a solid powerful team. They call them the All Blacks because when rugby was first being played in New Zealand and the rugby team was allowed to go overseas and play their first international games, this was back when England was, I think, racist, they didn’t let any of the indigenous Maori players come over to England and play. They just wanted the white players of New Zealand to come and play. All New Zealanders are multicultural and patriotic. Back a hundred years ago, they wanted to all play together, so a lot of rugby players have been playing with people in the same team that were Maori and native, and when they went to play in England, they were told that only the white men could come and play, they named the team “The All Blacks”. It was like a little bit of a rebellion name towards England. They were saying “Hey! We are New Zealanders. We are black and we are white and we all play together. So if you want the white players, you have to have the black players as well. So let’s call our team the All Blacks because we want to be able to play together”. And England had to accept them for their overseas match.

Q: Wow I bet becoming an All Black is a dream for many New Zealand people?

A: Yeah definitely. I think it’s every young boy’s dream to be an All Black. It will be the same as a celebrity or a president. Everybody knows who you are. A lot of children start training very early. But for the national team – the All Blacks, they train every single day for many years. It’s a full time job. They’re pride; they’re the national symbol of New Zealand.

Q: Thank you Amber, for talking about New Zealand’s rugby game and the traditional dance, the Haka. And that has been this week’s Culture Rendezvous edition on VOV24/7. Tune in to our program 104 FM for more cultural aspects around the world, or visit our website at: Thank you for listening and goodbye until next time!