Rugby Union in New Zealand – Part 2

Rugby in New Zealand is seen as reflecting the journey of the country from a British colony to a pluralistic Pacific nation. The Maoris were playing rugby before the British arrived to set up a colony, and nowadays one in every seven New Zealanders can trace their heritage back to the indigenous population. That is 700,000 people, so they cannot be seen in any stretch of the imagination to be a minority group. The Haka is the original war dance or challenge from the Maori people to their opponents. The Haka is synonymous with All Blacks rugby, but it is also a part of the everyday New Zealand culture and way of life. Every secondary school rugby fixture is preceded with the schools very own Haka.

The Haka was almost lost to the All Blacks rugby in 2004 when the side felt that the original Ka Mate Ka Mate Haka was no longer relevant to the players in the side. In consultation, with the Ngati Toa Tribe Derek Lardelli was commissioned to produce a new Haka, and so the Kapa O Pango Hak was introduced. The ethnicity of the All Blacks has become even more diverse with migration into the country of pacific Islanders. Nowadays half of the All Blacks teams will have Maori or Pacific Island backgrounds.

Michael Jones possibly the greatest number 7 ever!

Michael Jones has won 55 caps for the All Blacks and many people believe that he is one of the greatest open side flankers to ever play the game. However, he has also received great accolades for the work that he has done with the Pacific Islander Young People since he left the game. His mother was Western Samoan, and he has spent a great deal of his time since retiring from playing for working for the charity Village Trust.

Colin Meads

Colin Meads played 55 times for the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971 captaining his country on eleven occasions. He was a second row forward who famously carried on playing in a test against South Africa after breaking his arm.

This was before the age of professionalism, and he made his living from his farm. The long hours of physical work kept him in a good physical shape for the rigors on the rugby field. After he had finished playing, he worked for the Crippled Children’s Society and the New Zealand Rugby Foundation.

Tana Umaga

Tana Umaga who played for both Samoa and the All Blacks

Tana Umaga was the first New Zealander of the Pacific Island descent to captain the All Blacks. He played on 74 occasions for the All Blacks scoring 180 points. He captained 21 times with 18 victories. Since finishing playing, he has gone into coaching starting with Toulon and he is now at the Auckland Blues.

Wayne “Buck” Shelford

Wayne Shelford was from Maori descent and played 22 times for the All Blacks. In 1987, against France in Nantes a stray French boot caught him in the scrotum leaving one testicle hanging free. He got the Physio to stitch it up and he carried on playing with four missing teeth. He eventually left the field with concussion. He captained the side from 1987 to 1980, and the side never lost. He took the team to Te Aute College, Maori school, to show the players how the Haka should be performed. From this date, the Haka has been performed with renewed vigor. There are many more legends of New Zealand rugby, and this list is merely subjective. What is for certain is that these players are seen by many as true greats of New Zealand sport.

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