Kaumatua, New Zealand Rugby Union defend controversial Hurricanes Poua haka

The New Zealand Rugby Union says the Hurricanes Poua's second controversial haka in two weeks has been misinterpreted.

Some bilingual te reo Māori speakers heard Poua haka leader, Leilani Perese, saying the government should "whakangarongaro" or disappear.

Deputy prime minister Winston Peters called it "a bunch of naive players damaging the brand".

But New Zealand Rugby Kaihautu, chief adviser Māori, Luke Crawford told Morning Report the words can be translated in a number of ways, and must be taken in context.

In this context, it was about refocusing the team.

"It needs to be taken in the context of the whole haka and the other part about it is that it can be translated in in a number of different ways."

It was important to understand what the team was speaking of, he said.

"The whole haka itself is about actually refocusing the team to where it needs to be focused and that's into rugby, and with an acknowledgement that the previously done haka, while there were some deep-felt feelings and emotions in terms of what was being said, it was inappropriate to actually do it in that way, or probably wasn't the right way to do it.

"Now Māoridom of course would say it is absolutely the right way to do it, but we're in a rugby context and we need to just take in all sides."

The women's team, the Poua, caused controversy last weekend with their pre-match haka against Manawa, calling the coalition government "redneck".

On Saturday, the Poua used another haka before its win against Matatū at Wellington's Sky Stadium, also with references to the government and to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Crawford said the latest haka was meant to turn the focus away from what was said about the government and shift it to an internal conversation directed towards the team.

It used the phrase "Toitū te Tiriti", which translates to Honour the Treaty, a phrase used by Māori opposition groups to the government's policies.

"We're talking about a team that is 90 percent Māori, and are humbled that the whole team accepted that the Treaty and the promises of the Treaty have great examples of how you connect and how we would want to actually work together - both on field and off field, " Crawford said.

He said the intent of haka was about the team refocusing.

He was working with the Hurricanes and NZ Rugby to understand "how te ao Māori, the Māori world sits into a rugby context".

Winston Peters said that the Hurricanes would lose support and viewers "because the CEO has a bunch of naive players damaging the brand by attempting to wade into partisan political activism without any concept of reality".

"They are trying to insult the government but are instead now just slapping the Hurricane brand and CEO in the face. Go woke go broke," Peters said in a social media post.

To that, Crawford responded: "Ka pai, I would expect that from Winnie tā.

"I don't have an issue with that if it wasn't the intent of the haka to do that, it was to refocus."

As he continued to look at how haka fit into the rugby context, Crawford looked back at when he took up the kaumatua position for the Māori All Blacks in 2010.

He said it allowed him "to go deep into a high-performance team and to see what are the things that actually motivate and connect and stir the inner part of players to a better on-field performance".

He said the haka had been part of rugby since 1888.

"I can see that it's so connected now in terms of what it does for our identity, what it does to unite us, to ground a high-performance team and what they have to do and to commit them all to their lands, to their people, to each other.

"This is not just Māori but all of us."