There are not many childhoods in New Zealand that Rugby hasn’t feature in somewhere along the way. It is our national sport and one we are recognised internationally for.
My childhood was limited to watching on TV but my later years consisted of watching many matches intently from the sidelines both in New Zealand and overseas. I have some amazing memories of those times and some incredibly important friendships that still to this day play a part in my life.
When I put the words Rugby and New Zealand together it will most likely trigger the name ‘All Blacks’.
The All Blacks, a team of strong, skilled and dedicated men from all over New Zealand. This team takes to the field in a uniform of black with the silver fern emblem placed proudly over their heart. It is a great honour to represent your country and they are followed by many dedicated fans of all ages. They are not only famous for their achievements in the World Cup but also for the powerful display at the beginning of their matches, the Haka.
The Haka is a traditional war cry, dance, or challenge. In a cultural setting, it is to performed by men with the women lending vocal support in the rear. Most haka seen today are performed without weapons.
According to Maori legend, Tama-nui-to-ra, the Sun God, had two wives,
- Hine-raumati, the Summer maid, and
- Hine takurua, the Winter maid.
The child born to him and Hine-raumati was Tane-rore, who is credited with the origin of the Haka dance. Tane-rore is said to be the trembling of the air as seen on the hot days of summer, and represented by the quivering of the hands in the dance.
The famous haka; Ka Mate Ka Mate, performed by the All Blacks was composed by Ngati Toa Chieftain Te Rauparaha around 1820.
The story behind the Ka Mate, Ka Mate Haka is that during a time of confrontation Te Rauparaha was being chased by warriors of a rival iwi (a Maori community or people), and was hidden by Te Wharerangi in a kumara (native sweet potato) pit. Te Wharerangi’s wife was told to sit on top. Guided by their Tohunga (priest) the warriors searched for Te Rauparaha and as they came near he whispered,
“Ka Mate Ka Mate” (It is death; it is death).
Hidden from the Tohunga by the spiritual powers of both the food and the woman above, Te Rauparaha was not found, and as the searchers passed overhead he whispered,
“Ka ora Ka ora” (It is life, it is life).
When the warriors finally left the village Te Rauparaha was able to come out of the kumara pit chanting,
“Tenei te tangata puhuruhuru nana nei i tiki mai whaka whiti te ra”
“Whiti te ra! Hi!”
There are many interpretations but tradition holds that Te Rauparaha was giving thanks to the spiritual power of Te Rangikoaea as he rose from the darkness of the pit into the light of the sun.
Rugby has been for many years a man’s game, but we see more and more women playing and women’s clubs and international competition’s than ever before. We have a national women’s rugby team called the Black Ferns, a dominant team in women’s rugby worldwide, with Women’s Rugby World Cup titles in 1998, 2002 2006 and in 2010.
Rugby starts for many keen players from the age of 5 in what we call Grassroots Rugby. As it is an incredibly physical sport there is a focus on teaching the children the correct techniques to ensure they stay safe. In the early years, there is no tackling and contact instead they pull tags from the opposing players to signify a tackle, this is called Little Ripper Rugby.
We have Super Rugby which is a competition made up of regional New Zealand, Australian, South Africa, Japan and Argentina teams. Our local heroes here in Wellington are the Hurricanes. It is a very fitting name for our region due the amount of gale force winds we have!
Outside of National and Regional competitions each town and city around New Zealand has local club rugby for young and old.
In our communities we see the All Black and Regional players immerse themselves into the local clubs encouraging the younger players and taking part in fundraising events. I have to say all of the players I have met over the years are an absolute pleasure to be around. They are humble, work hard and always have time for their fans.
There is a huge sense of pride to say we are the home of the All Blacks, they are a team that can unite a country and bring with them strong role models for the next generation.
GO the All Blacks!