Rugby: Hurricanes Poua say latest haka has been misconstrued as political attack

Hurricanes administators have denied the Poua's latest haka is criticising the government and say people have misconstrued the challenge.  

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters claims the team's pre-match haka before their round two Super Rugby Aupiki match was "trying to insult the government".  

The Wellington women caused a controversy last weekend with their pre-match haka against Manawa, calling the coalition government "redneck".  

 Leilani Perese of the Hurricanes Poua leads a haka.
Leilani Perese of the Hurricanes Poua leads a haka. Photo credit: Getty Images

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.  

It used the phrase 'Toitū te Tiriti', which translates as 'honour the treaty', a phrase used by Māori opposition groups to the government's policies.  

RNZ bilingual reporters, other media and commentators listening to the haka heard it as another political statement.  

A translation used by 1News was: "New Zealand rise up! Here is Hurutearangi.

"Governments are temporary, the treaty will endure. Poua will endure."

Late Saturday night, the Wellington-based franchise issued a statement explaining, while the words were open to interpretation, the latest haka was not meant to be critical of the government, and people should not focus on one or two lines.  

Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee, who said he had been blindsided by the Poua haka last week, says the franchise, players and cultural advisers met on Thursday to create a new haka this week, which was "respectful and true" to the team.  

Poua head coach Ngatai Walker said: "There may be misinterpretation of individual words.

"The intent of the meaning is, 'Aotearoa unite, Hurutearangi [female god of the wind] has arrived... challenges may come and go, but we will endure'.  

"I am really proud of the performance the players put on the field. They played with mana for their families, their community and the club."

In the statement, New Zealand Rugby Kaihautu (chief adviser Māori) Luke Crawford says the reference to the government was, in fact, "refocusing away from politics".

"Translating a single line of the haka in the way that weaponises it against the team is, frankly, irresponsible, especially when there are a number of other ways to translate that same line.

"The Hurricanes have come a long way and we have a long way to go, but we have just seen the result of what can happen when we allow a team to be their authentic selves and work well with everyone in the waka. 

Leilani Perese of the Hurricanes Poua leads a haka.
Leilani Perese of the Hurricanes Poua leads a haka. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Individual words inside the haka are merely representative of a far deeper body of Māori knowledge, language and thinking, which are not easily deciphered without the assistance of Pukenga Māori (experts).

"Other than the first line, which speaks to Aotearoa, the rest of the haka is an inward facing conversation for the team."

He says the haka urges the nation to get behind the team and refocus themselves on the game.

On Saturday night, Peters took to Twitter to criticise the Hurricanes franchise, saying it was "trying to insult the government". 

"The Hurricanes may well 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," he said.

"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."