After the gut-wrenching disappointment of a second loss on this summer’s Lions tour of New Zealand, we now look forward to the next bruising fixture set to take place on Saturday in Rotorua against the Maori All Blacks.
While fans can look to Super Rugby for form and fitness of the franchise sides and peer into previous Test matches for an indication of All Black strength, the representative Maoris are somewhat of a mystery.
Recording a victory over the men in red in 2005, this could well be the toughest test of the Lions’ credentials before the first Test match.
History Of The Maori All Blacks
Rugby is a game steeped in rich history transcending through myths and legends of fierce and ferocious battles played out on the field. This is most certainly the case with the formerly known New Zealand natives, a representative team 129 years old, comprising a prerequisite that all players have Maori ancestry, or Whakapapa, as it’s known natively. Since 1888 the Maori have played against international opposition 117 times, winning an astonishing 72 of these fixtures
The brainchild of Joseph Warbrick, who assembled a squad of 25 players, their inaugural fixture was against Hawkes Bay on June 23, 1888. This was the beginning of a mammoth a 107-match tour of New Zealand, Australia as well as Britain and Ireland. The Maori All Blacks were the first overseas rugby team to tour these shores. This furrow into uncharted rugby territory heralded 78 victories, most notably claiming their first international scalp against Ireland.
A powerful tradition of Maori culture is the Haka, a traditional ancestral war dance and challenge. Originally performed by warriors before a battle to display strength and power. The original Haka used was ‘Ka Mate’, composed by famous warrior chief Te Rauparaha of the Maori tribe Ngati To in the South Island of New Zealand.
First performed by the squad on October 3, 1888 against Surrey, it was later adopted by the All Blacks. In 2001 the Maori All Blacks performed the Timatanga Haka for the first time. This tells the story of the birth of mankind and the journey Maori warriors have undertaken throughout this world and how they achieved matauranga, hanaunatanga, taumatatanga, meaning knowledge, unity and excellence respectively.
At the turn of the professional era, many viewed the Maori All Blacks as surplus to requirements, just like many invitational sides that make our game so great. Amateur players were now a thing of the past, however, prestigious scalps versus international players was not.
Since 1994, famous All Blacks such as Aaron Smith, Christian Cullen and Dane Coles have cut their teeth in a Maori jersey. In the ensuing years after rugby union became an open game, the men from the Land of the Long White Cloud only lost three of its 37 fixtures against international sides, recording victories against England, Argentina and Scotland.
Chris Cooper is at the helm for the titanic tussle set to take place on Saturday against the Lions. Selecting an exciting blend of youth and experience, this squad seems set on causing the touring party untold trouble. Boasting eight current and former All Blacks, including a dangerous back three of Damian McKenzie, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Rieko Ioane, expect them to go wide early.
McKenzie and Milner-Skudder will both be devastated to miss out on All Black squad selection and will be determined to show Steve Hansen the error of his ways. A powerful pack also awaits, containing 43-cap Liam Messam and exuberant flanker Elliot Dixon. Marshalled by Lion-tamer Ihaia West or Hurricanes prodigy Otere Black this is surely going to be a blinder.
While you’re here, check out our exclusive interview with Zinzan Brooke as he discusses his controversial comments on Taulupe Faletau.
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