Varsity Cup

Walter Sisulu University captain on why they copy the All Blacks' haka

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Walter Sisulu University.
Walter Sisulu University.

Walter Sisulu University captain Litha Nkula has explained why they perform the All Blacks' haka prior to Varsity Shield matches.

Hysteria sprung up again about WSU's 'All Blacks' performing their own rendition of New Zealand's Kapa o Pango haka before they demolished Durban University of Technology's Rhinos 136-11 in their opening Varsity Shield game at Loftus Versfeld on Monday.

The NZ Herald published an article detailing social media reaction from Down Under, with some calling WSU's emulation an "insult".

"When I arrived at WSU, our late coach Sipho Metula told us stories about how this team got to mobilise and use New Zealand rugby players as icons within the team," Nkula told the Varsity Cup's official website.

"The players wanted to bring in the haka because they admired the way the All Blacks play," Nkula added. "The players took the initiative to try and understand why the All Blacks do it.

"We chose the haka because of the style of rugby that we play. We hold ourselves to the standard of New Zealand rugby, we want to play like them. The haka entertains us but also brings that seriousness before a game. It has become part of our culture."

He added that they meant no disrespect to the All Blacks.

"We're doing it in a respectful manner and trying to bring confidence to our players. We would have done something else but because of the way that it has influenced us as a team, it's not something we want to change."

When probed on why they didn't perform a traditional South African war dance, Nkula said: "It's not that we don't do anything from our traditions or cultures; we also sing Amagwijo before a game, during practice, and on our way to the game. The haka is just influential to us."

On Wednesday, WSU coach Akhona Mgijima also told Sport24 that their use of the haka pre-game was the biggest compliment they could pay the Kiwis.

"It's school kids, tertiary boys having fun and enjoying themselves," Mgijima said.

"We built the culture around the All Blacks. The WSU colours are black and when we entered the Varsity Shield, it was just after New Zealand won the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

"There was a lot of hype about New Zealand and it was nice to see. The players themselves brought it up, saying they want to do the haka as a celebratory thing and we allowed them.

"The player that started it, Yanga Wani, is nicknamed 'Beast' after Tendai Mtawarira, so we aren’t only looking up to New Zealanders.

"But the rugby brand we wanted to play and the type of players we have, it's modelled on New Zealand's.

"We cannot say we want to play a forwards-dominated game when we don't have the players for it. We have players that are mainly from rural homes, with very few coming from affluent schools.

"We have one or two from Dale College this season but none from Hudson Park or Selborne College and those well-known schools.

"These boys' physique and type of rugby they are used to suits running rugby. Hence we called ourselves the All Blacks."

According to Newshub, NZ Rugby had no issue with the Eastern Cape university performing the ritual.

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