King's men perform haka for All Blacks
HAMILTON, 11 Sept. - Before every Test match they play, New Zealand's All Blacks try to intimidate their opponents with a rousing and somewhat threatening haka.
But on Sunday it was the team's turn to face the music on a visit to meet King Tuheitia, monarch of the Maori.
As the All Blacks entered Turangawaewae marae in Ngaruawahia, near Hamilton, they were met by the fearsome sight of dozens of local warriors in traditional dress.
The Maoris shook the ground with a haka that would have put fear into the hearts of the bravest men.
But as they threw down the challenge to New Zealand captain Richie McCaw he quickly took it up, to the cheers of hundreds of locals who had come to see their heroes.
The team were honoured to be invited to the ceremony.
"When you play for the All Blacks, you get to do lots of special things. This is one of them," said Richard Kahui, man of the match in the All Blacks' 41-10 victory over Tonga on Friday.
"It's a pretty special day for us and a real privilege to be here."
Tuheitia was crowned king of the Kingitanga movement in 2006, ascending the throne vacated by his mother's death.
The line of sovereigns dates back to 1858 when Maori selected their first king to unite their tribes as they struggled to retain ownership of their land amid an influx of British immigrants.
All Blacks flanker Victor Vito last year became high chief of his village, Fasito'o Uta, in Samoa. He said he was humbled to meet King Tuheitia.
"You can't compare my chief title to his. It's an honour to meet any real royalty."
Scrum half Piri Weepu said: "We really got a taste of the culture and the history of this place. It was good to have the translator there to help us understand everything too."
Wing Richard Kahui, who replaced Cory Jane against Tonga, hails from nearby Tokoroa.
"It's moving to come home and see all the support we have here and all over the country," he said.
King Tuheitia and the people of Ngaruawahia will certainly be backing the All Blacks when they line up against Japan at Waikato Stadium on Friday.