By Lucy Craymer
The ancestors of the ancient Maori tribe that created the specific dance the team uses—the Ka Mate Haka, or “Tis Death, Tis Death”—want it back.
In the rousing dance, the entire team of 15 players line up on the pitch opposite their rivals and act out a ritual that was once used by fierce Maori tribesmen to celebrate their survival in battle. Other New Zealand sports teams, including the Olympic swimmers, have been known to perform a tribal dance as well (when someone wins a gold medal).
The Ngati Toa tribe, which hails from the southern tip of New Zealand’s North Island, is locked in talks with the New Zealand Rugby Union, the sport’s governing body. The tribe is trying to trademark phrases that form part of the song that the rugby players chant when performing the dance, known as the Haka. If the tribe is successful, the Haka as it is known today could disappear from the warm-up of New Zealand’s famous rugby team for the first time in more than a century.
For more on the subject, see Savage Maori in The Wives of Henry Oades and Maori War Chant in Invictus.