Calls renew for haka ban

WHILE the All Blacks are yet to decide which haka to perform before the Rugby World Cup final on Sunday, an Australian columnist is renewing calls to axe the throat-slitting gesture at the end of Kapa o Pango.

The Sydney Morning Herald's Paul Sheehan has described the haka "greatest ritual in world sport", however suggested the team and management may want to consider what the throat-slitting gesture symbolises.

"If some of the All Blacks persist in ending this latest version of the haka with a throat-slitting motion, they will be using a very big stage to remind people the Maoris once engaged in unspeakable conduct, which we don't discuss any more," he wrote.

"I'll simply allude to this by quoting the journal of Captain James Cook: 'There was not a man aboard Endeavour who, in the event of the ship's breaking up, would not have preferred to drown rather than be left to the mercy of the Maoris'.''

"I expect the All Blacks will dominate Sunday's final but New Zealanders should remember two things: about 96 per cent of the world does not care about rugby; and the violence suggested by throat-slitting gestures has no place in sport or sportsmanship, especially in the national colours."

At a team press conference yesterday, players were coy about whether they would perform the traditional Ka Mate or go with the newer Kapa o Pango, on Sunday.

"Can't tell you that. It's top secret," Ali Williams said. "We'll decide on the bus - that's when we normally decide, on the bus to the game.

"Richie (McCaw) will send a text to the guys and (we'll hear a) 'beep, beep' and it'll tell us what haka we're doing."

In response to a few giggles from journalists, Williams said: "I'm deadly serious."

Both hakas have been shown three times during the Rugby World Cup.

The All Blacks performed the traditional Ka Mate haka for the tournament's opening match against Tonga and again against Japan and then Canada in their pool matches.

Kapa o Pango was the choice in their pool match against France, their quarter-final game against Argentina and again on Sunday, in the semifinal with the Wallabies.

Williams, who usually stands in the front row during the haka, is known for his passionate performances.

Referring to the throat-slitting action at the end of Kapa o Pango, he said: "The little action at the end is the Thunderbolt ... It's like a super-hero from Spider-man."

Williams admitted he had not been a fan of the haka earlier in his career.

But that changed when a Maori leader visited the team and explained the significance of it.

"I know what it means. I know what it does to me - it gets me excited," Williams said. "I didn't use to buy into it but I love it now. I don't want to let it down. I want to pay it the respect it deserves."