Rugby's war of words

(Rugby News Service) Friday 14 September 2007
by Olivia McGrath
Rugby's war of words
Warrior sport: The All Blacks perform the haka prior to facing Italy last Saturday

PARIS, 14 September - When Samoa and Tonga meet in Montpellier on Sunday it will be the first time two Pacific Island war cries have gone head to head at a world cup match.

Gone are the shields, spears and the tribal warlords of times past, replaced by modern warriors waging a new kind of battle on the rugby pitch.

New Zealand have long been famous for performing their pre-match haka, but they're not the only ones with an ancient war dance to get the blood pumping and crowds roaring.

Fiji, Samoa and Tonga all have their own rituals derived from their warrior ancestry.

Fiji - cibi

Fiji's war dance, the cibi (pronounced thimbi), has been performed on the rugby pitch since their first tour of New Zealand in 1939. The cibi is believed to be derived from a Bauan war cry called cibi ni I valu.

When returning from battle victorious, warriors would sing the cibi, brandishing their weapons and flying flags, one for each enemy slain.

Fiji fly half Nicky Little believes the cibi continues to fire up the team: "It's a tribal psych-up for war. I think it makes a few people crazy," he said. 

Ai tei vovo, tei vovo
E ya, e ya, e ya, e ya;
Tei vovo, tei vovo
E ya e ya, e ya, e ya

Rai tu mai, rai tu mai
Oi au a viriviri kemu bai
Rai tu mai, rai ti mai
Oi au a viriviri kemu bai

Toa yalewa, toa yalewa,
Veico, veico, veico.
Au tabu moce koi au
Au moce ga ki domo ni biau.

E luvu koto ki ra nomu waqa
O kaya beka au sa luvu sara
Nomu bai e wawa mere
Au tokia ga ka tasere

(English translation)
Make ready, make ready,
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh;
Make ready, make ready,
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh;

Look hither, look hither,
I build a breastwork for you,
Look hither, look hither,
I build a breastwork for you.

A cock and a hen,
They attack, attack, attack,
It is tabu for me to slumber,
Except to the sound of breakers.

Your ship is sunk below,
Don't think I'm drowned too.
Your defence is just waiting
To crumble when I prick it.

Samoa – siva tau

The Samoan war dance is the siva tau, first composed for RWC 1991.

For the Samoa captain Semo Sititi, the siva sau honours his country's history and represents the team as warriors ready to fight: "It's to fire us up, to show that we're there ready to battle, not just to go through the motions," he said.

Le Manu Samoa e, ia manú le fai o le faiva Le Manu Samoa e, ia manú le fai o le faiva
Le Manu Samoa e, ia manú le fai o le faiva
Le Manu Samoa lenei ua ou sau
Leai se isi Manu o le atulaulau
Ua ou sau nei ma le mea atoa
Ma lo'u malosi ua atoatoa
Ia e faatafa ma e sósó ese
Leaga o lenei Manu e uiga ese
Le Manu Samoa! Le Manu Samoa!
Le Manu Samoa e o mai i Samoa!
(English translation)
The Manu Samoa, may you succeed in your mission.
The Manu Samoa, here I come.
There is no other Manu anywhere.
Here I come completely prepared.
My strength is at its peak.
Make way and move aside,
Because this Manu is unique.
The Manu Samoa,
The Manu Samoa,

Tonga – sipi tau

Tonga's sipi tau is considered by some to be the most aggressive of the war dances as the players advance toward their opponents.

It was an intense scene at RWC 2003 when Tonga and New Zealand faced off with simultaneous war dances.

The sipi tau is a version of the Tongan kailao war dance. The kailao is typically without words, usually accompanied by drums. However, the Tongan team's sipi tau includes promises to "crunch fierce hearts".

Ei e! Ei e!
Teu lea pea tala ki mamani katoa
Ko e 'ikale taki kuo halofia
Ke 'ilo 'e he sola moe taka
Koe 'aho ni teu tamate tangata
'A e haafe mo e tautua'a
Kuo hu'i hoku anga tangata
He! He! 'Ei e. Tu
Teu peluki e molo moe foueti taka
Pea ngungu mo ha loto fita'a
Keu mate ai he ko hoku loto
Ko Tonga pe mate ki he moto
Ko Tonga pe mate ki he moto
'Ei e! Ei e!
(English translation)
I shall speak to the whole world
The sea eagle is starved
Let the foreigner and sojourner beware
Today, destroyer of souls I am, everywhere
To the half back and the backs
I have shed my human characteristics
Maul and loose forwards I shall mow
And crunch any fierce hearts you know
I drink the ocean and consume the fire
To death or victory my will is fine
That's how Tonga gives to her motto
To her motto, Tonga gives all
To her motto, Tonga gives all
Hi! Hi!

New Zealand – haka

New Zealand's haka is probably the best known of the war dances and was first performed by the New Zealand Native team in an overseas representative match on the 1888-89 tour of Britain.

Haka is a common name for a Maori war dance, which exists in many different forms. The All Blacks brought the Ka Mate haka to the world stage, but since 2006 have started performing a new ceremonial haka, the Kapa O Panga.

The Ka Mate haka is a story about pursuit and escape, and fundamentally survival. It is said to have been composed in the 1800s by warrior chief Te Rauparaha.

The words of the Ka Mate refer to the highs and lows faced in battle, the lengths one will go to in order to survive; in Te Rauparaha's case, going against custom and pride by hiding in a pit beneath the skirts of a woman.

The new Kapa O Panga haka has been received with some controversy, with the final throat-slitting gesture considered by some an excessive show of aggression, although according to the Kapa O Pango composer Derek Lardelli, it's simply an action intended to draw energy through the vital organs and release the warrior into battle.

Ka Mate haka

Ka Mate! Ka Mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!
Ka Mate! Ka Mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!
Tenei te tangata puhuru huru
Nana nei I tiki mai
Whakawhiti te ra
A upa … ne! ka upa …ne!
A upane kaupane whiti te ra!

(English translation)

I die! I die! I live! I live!
I die! I die! I live! I live!
This is the hairy man
Who fetched the sun
And caused it to shine again
One upward step! Another upward step!
An upward step, another… the sun shines!

Kapa O Pango

Kapa O Pango kia whakawhenua au I ahau!
Hi aue ii!
Ko Aotearoa e ngunguru nei!
Au, au aue ha!
Ko Kapa O Pango e ngunguru nei!
Au, au, aue ha!
I ahaha!
Ka tu te ihiihi
Ka tu te wanawana
Ki runga ki te rangi e tu iho nei, tu iho nei ihi!
Ponga ra!
Kapa O Pango, aue hi!
Ponga ra!
Kapa O Pango, aue hi!

(English translation)
All Blacks, let me become one with the land
This is our land that rumbles
It's my time! It's my moment!
This defines us as the All Blacks
It's my time! It's my moment!
Our dominance
Our supremacy will triumph
And will be properly revered, placed on high
Silver fern!
All Blacks!
Silver fern!
All Blacks!

Turn away if you dare

Opinions vary as to whether the opposing side should face the war dance as a sign of respect.

Eyebrows were raised after New Zealand's opening match at RWC 2007 when the Italians turned their backs to the haka, but New Zealand hooker Anton Oliver believes it's a personal choice: "You get more respect from us if you do (face it)," he said. "But I don't think any less of the Italians in their decision to do it (huddle away from the haka)."

And when Tonga and Samoa meet, there'll be no turned backs after Samoa captain Semo Sititi spelled out his views: "You should face it. When we play Tonga we will be facing them."

RNS om/mr