In Depth

Haka then and now: it used to be more funny than frightening

Archive video shows that the Haka has changed a lot in 40 years. See how the 1973 war cry measures up

The Haka, a traditional ancestral war cry practised by Maoris before battle – and now by the All Blacks before rugby internationals – has become one of sport's most theatrical moments.

But the rugby players' version of the dance wasn't always as intimidating as it is today.

Footage from a 1973 tour match between the All Blacks and the Barbarians in Cardiff shows the New Zealanders performing a rather less intense version of the dance than modern crowds have come to expect:

The Haka performed by the All Blacks is called Ka Mate and belongs to the Ngati Toa tribe on New Zealand's North Island. It tells the story of a fleeing chief who escapes capture by hiding from his enemies in a food pit.

Ka Mate initially attracted criticism for the leap included at the end of the performance, which some cultural observers interpreted as a surrender of land. Today, when the team performs Ka Mate, the players keep their feet firmly on the ground.

In the 1970s, players faced the stands rather than the opposition as they performed the Haka, and perhaps it instilled less fear in rival players. The game featured in the video above ended in disaster for the All Blacks: the Barbarians won 23-11 and New Zealand conceded what many people regard as the greatest try ever scored in rugby.

Today, though, the Haka is rather more imposing:

This version of the Haka was written specifically for the All Blacks in response to concerns about Ka Mate. It is called Kapa o Pango, which translates as Team in Black, and is based on another Haka that was used by a New Zealand touring team in 1924.

It was first performed in 2005 when a throat slitting gesture at the end, now rarely seen, generated plenty of comment. Today the All Blacks alternate between Ka Mata and Kapa o Pango with the decision taken by the captain shortly before the match.

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