If the All Blacks’ pre-match haka against South Africa to open their Rugby World Cup defense appeared to have extra bite, it was deliberate.
With New Zealand set to play its second pool match in the tournament on Wednesday against Canada in Oita, the All Blacks say they’ve been enhancing their “Kapa o Pango” haka.
Captain Kieran Read led the haka for the first time with frequent haka leader TJ Perenara, starting from the third row and gradually moving to the captain’s usual place at the front.
“It was one of the better ones,” hooker Dane Coles, often in the second row, says. “We’ve been doing a bit of work behind the scenes to get our timing, and getting everyone to show what it means to them. I think even Sam Whitelock struck out a pukana (facial expression).”
The All Blacks are globally famous for doing the haka before international rugby tests, although Perenara says they don’t practice “Kapa o Pango” and the much older and more frequently used “Ka Mate” much.
“If we need any top-ups or extra work, we’ll find a slot throughout the week,” Perenara says. “Often, newer players in the environment need work on it, I’ll do some one-on-one time with him.
“It’s an honor to be in that conversation when people think of the All Blacks haka and put my name next to it. You don’t hold that (haka leader) role forever, so while I have the honor I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”
Read says the enhanced version they showed against South Africa 10 days ago in Yokohama might have been a little too good.
“We were a bit overeager once we started the game from it,” he says. “It’s something we’ll work on through the tournament.”
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