The Maori All Blacks say their formation during the Flying Fijians’ haka on Saturday night was not malicious (writes Cira Olivier of the New Zealand Herald newspaper).
Some fans have commented on social media they felt disappointed after the Maori All Blacks appeared to have turned their back on the Fijian haka.
Rotorua local Donna-Maree Francis said she was “very sad to see them not show respect” towards the Fijians’ haka. “We were looking forward to watching both teams do the haka but we didn’t expect to see the Maori All Blacks turn their backs and not face the challenge from the visitors,” she said. “It just wasn’t the warm welcome we were expecting to see towards the visiting team.”
But Maori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan said it had been taken out of context and it was just the way the team decided to start their own haka. “There was no malice… it was just the way the boys chose to start,” he said.
Rotorua Lakes Council cultural ambassador and kapa haka expert Trevor Maxwell said their actions were not disrespectful and he was not offended. Maxwell admired both haka through performing arts eyes and said the Maori All Blacks got into formation in preparation for their haka.
— FOX SPORTS Rugby (@FOXRUGBY) July 20, 2019
He said the team moved into a circle with the leader chanting in the middle and it was not an uncommon move for the pre-match ritual. The New Zealand Kiwis, the national rugby league team, did something similar, he said. “To me, I was not offended,” he said, noting it was always good to see people getting creative with Maori performing arts.
Maxwell said the match and the lead-up to the game was a great showcase of culture and the Fijian supporters were a stand out to him. “They outshine us as supporters… the Fijian supporters really show passion,” he said.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 20, 2019
When the gates opened at 4.30pm, 12,800 tickets had been sold already and people from near and far came for the close game.
The Maori All Blacks came out on top at the home game, winning 26-17 after having lost to Fiji for the first time since 1957 at the weekend before, 27-10, in Suva.
– New Zealand Herald
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