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Cap the Haka? Research and rugby face off on All Blacks’ iconic war dance

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Should the Haka be scrapped from rugby? Let’s ask a different, less inflammatory question. If the New Zealand Haka and equivalents like the Fijian Cibi and the Tonga Sipi Tau provides an unfair advantage to those teams that perform it before kick off, should there be a limit on when and where those teams can do so?

Research conducted this year at the University of Queensland’s School of Human Movement found that players who performed these war dances reached elevated heart rate levels moments before the start of the match.

Those squats and lunges are the equivalent of undergoing a warm-up while the opposition stands still, often in the cold. Admittedly we’re talking about marginal gains, but at the elite level that could be the difference between scoring a try in the opening five minutes or not. “To be honest, even if it did give them a competitive advantage – and I’m not so sure if it does or not – I would hate to see it go,” says Victor Matfield, the former Springbok lock who faced a Pacific Island war dance before 34 of his 127 Tests. “I loved it, especially when we played the All Blacks.

If it gave them a boost that was fine because it gave me a boost. A mental boost. I knew I was in for a fight and it would get me going.

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