The astounding arrogance of New Zealand Rugby’s officials has left the All Blacks pondering the unthinkable — will they reintroduce the controversial throat-slitting haka for Sunday’s Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia?
A traditional Maori cultural challenge, the Kapa o Pango haka has been criticised for suggesting violence so is rarely used these days, and when it is, the final throat-slitting gesture is often replaced with a modified arm being drawn across the body.
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Saved for ‘special’ occasions, the bitter fallout between the New Zealand and Australian rugby boards has raised the prospect the intimidating challenge could be performed this weekend after the Kiwis were dumped as hosts of this year’s Rugby championship and replaced by Australia.
NZR is still whining about the dates of the series and how their tough talking bluster was exposed as hot air, but their complaints have fallen on deaf ears with South Africa, Argentina and Pacific Island nations all calling out their snotty behaviour.
Like all playground bullies, the Kiwis sulk whenever someone stands up to them so have threatened to take their revenge against the Wallabies in Sunday’s opening Bledisloe Cup match in Wellington.
That could spell trouble for new coach Dave Rennie’s first Australian side, which is expected to include a handful of new faces being groomed for the future, but veteran playmaker Matt Toomua says the next generation of Wallabies won’t be falling for New Zealand’s lame attempts to intimidate them.
“One thing the young guys here do have is they’ve got a ton of confidence, a lot of them have come from a winning team, particularly the Brumbies guys,” Toomua said.
“Someone like Noah (Lolesio) is a good example, who has just won a competition and he’s got some good experience under his belt.
“I don’t think anyone will be disrespecting a Bledisloe team and naming a team full of debutants, but we’ve got to develop players and develop a squad for the future as well, so I’m sure it’ll be a balance.”
Rennie will wait until Friday before announcing his squad but has already hinted that he plans to include a mixture of youth and experience, but picking players only if there in form.
His long term goal is to develop a side to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup so he is prepared to throw his best young players into the deep end to see whether they will sink or swim but still wants a few senior heads around if they run into trouble against an All Blacks side that’s also rebuilding after their reign as World Cup champions came crashing down in Japan last year.
“It’s been hard to analyse them because they haven’t played a game (in 2020) so we’ve watched clips from our two games last year and their last game against England and teams that did really well against them so we can use that as a guide,” Toomua said.
“I think they’ll be in the same boat as well, maybe even more so because we’ve got a completely new coaching staff.
“It’s the old cliche that we’re just focusing on ourselves but we probably don’t have a choice but to focus on ourselves this week because there’s much footage of them around.”
The Wallabies are currently training in Christchurch before flying to Wellington on Saturday and Toomua said the mood in the camp was upbeat with Rennie seamlessly taking over from Michael Cheika.
“It’s still very much early days. We’re almost in a honeymoon period,” Toomua said. “He hasn’t dropped me yet, he hasn’t dropped us yet, we haven’t had to experience too much stress in that sense.
“It’s been a good breath of fresh air in that sense.
“Michael (Cheika) did a great job and he put in a great shift for the Australian rugby community, he got us to a (World Cup) final and all that.
“Rennie’s definitely got a few different tendencies. He loves a little sing-a-long, he loves all these different things, it’s been good.”