Science proves the All Blacks DO get an advantage over the opposition by performing the haka before games – and an Aussie tactic to counter the war dance works
- Performing the haka gives players an advantage by increasing heart rate
- Opposition players should do something to stay active while it’s happening
- Scientist says keeping a tracksuit on could counter the advantage of the haka
The haka war dance has long been thought to help the All Blacks dominate rugby union – and now there’s science to back that up.
The New Zealand national team has one of the best victory percentages in all sports – with the All Blacks winning 76 per cent of their matches over the last 120 years.
The famous Maori ceremonial challenge has been a big part of their arsenal as it’s renowned for putting opposition teams on the back foot even before the kickoff.
The All Blacks have dominated rugby for almost 120 years, winning 76 per cent of their games played. The haka has been an important part of their arsenal
Science has proved that the ceremonial dance does give the side performing it an advantage
Irish rugby commentator Ewan MacKenna once claimed that the haka shouldn’t be allowed because the All Blacks gained an advantage by keeping warm while performing the dance while the opposition was forced to stand, watch and cool down.
Vince Kelly of Queensland University’s School of Human Movement decided to find out if it was true and put heart monitors on players as they executed the haka to observe any physiological changes.
‘I was really surprised how high the heart rates reached in players performing the haka with some reaching over 90 per cent of their maximum heart rate,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
A scientist believes the haka gives the players who perform it roughly the same benefit as doing a full warm-up before a game – while their opposition have to stand still and watch
‘Players who perform the haka would have an advantage over their opposition as their heart rate is elevated in preparation for the match.’
Kelly said performing the haka increased heart rates to roughly the same level as doing a warm-up, adding that it can give the All Blacks an edge over an opposing team that stands still while watching them perform it.
‘Generally, teams do their warm-up and then probably come down a bit,’ he said. ‘There’s a possibility that the team that’s doing the haka keeps those advantages of the warm-up.
‘If you’ve got increased body temperature, that usually increases muscle temperature, which means the muscles are ready to exercise quicker.’
Kelly believes teams should do something to stay active while the haka is being performed, but shouldn’t try to disrupt it.
The scientist believes that teams should do something to stay active while the haka is being performed, but shouldn’t try to disrupt or challenge the ceremonial dance
‘Potentially disrespecting the haka by not watching it or warming up while it is performed would just upset the players who did the haka more,’ he said. ‘And then [the All Blacks] would probably be more pumped up to do well.’
In the early 2000s, the Wallabies began keeping their tracksuits on during the haka, thereby staying warmer for longer.
Kelly said the tactic has merit.
‘[The Wallabies’ tracksuit strategy] means the team doing the haka would lose the benefit of that warm-up effect because their core temperature and heart rate would be reduced,’ he said.
A good tactic in countering the advantage of the haka is keeping a tracksuit on and not losing warmth – something the Wallabies did in the early 2000s
It hasn’t been a good year for the All Blacks in 2022, winning just three from seven Tests, including historic losses at home to Ireland and Argentina. The team has plummeted to an all-time low of No.5 in the world rankings.
New Zealand will play the Wallabies on Thursday night in the first game of the Bledisloe Cup. Of the 152 Bledisloe Tests already played, New Zealand have won 108 and Australia 37, with seven drawn.