A South African rugby team who went viral over their use of the haka have stopped performing the Māori challenge after being requested to do so by New Zealand Rugby.
Last month, Walter Sisulu University were filmed doing a pre-match haka in a Varsity Shield game against the DUT Rhinos in which they performed a combination of both Ka Mate and Kapa or Pango.
The team, nicknamed the All Blacks, said at the time the haka was performed out of admiration for how New Zealand's national team plays and their efforts to bring that same skill, flair and confidence out of their own players.
“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," WSU captain Litha Nkula told VarsityCup.co.za.
“It has become part of our culture. We explain to new players that come in why it is done and how it influences us as a team. That’s why we feel that we can’t play without it; it’s part of our team culture, even though we adopted it from New Zealand.
“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.”
That all changed last week though when WSU's haka was noticably absent before their match against FNB Rhodes.
Nkula confirmed yesterday they had received a letter from New Zealand Rugby about the matter.
"New Zealand Rugby asked us not to do the haka for now," he said.
"They said they can maybe help us to do it in another way or form, because "Kapa O Panga" has deep and meaningful roots in New Zealand."
WSU had previously received backlash on social media for using the haka with accusations of cultural appropriation the biggest issue, but Nkula said unlike NZR's letter, those words didn't sway his team.
“We do listen to what people out there say, but we don’t see ourselves stopping the haka unless New Zealand says it’s disrespectful.”