The haka is in danger of losing respect because it is performed too often, Springboks coach Peter de Villiers says.
The Springboks were welcomed by Ngati Tuwharetoa to Taupo yesterday, and the haka Ka Mate was performed, and explained to de Villiers and his charges. de Villiers was impressed by that, which led to another utterance to add to his memorable cache of quotes; read on:
"We understand where it originated from and we understand it brings something deep down out of people who know what it is all about.
"For me, about the World Cup especially, there is too many haka around. It is unique to me, and it is losing its intensity – but that is only me.
"People are becoming so used to it, it is not a novelty anymore and they don't respect it."
When performed as it was when the defending world champs were welcomed to Opotaka, it had immense value – but that was cheapened by overuse in sports scenarios.
"Today, it was really deep down and you could feel everybody was part of it, you could understand why they do it."
Peter de Villiers is treading on very dangerous ground here. On hand he's suggesting that the haka has immense cultural value; on the other, he's saying that it's cheapened by its overuse in sports scenarios.
de Villiers doesn't seem to realise that the haka is part of the kaupapa of New Zealand rugby. One only has to view the grainy black and white footage of the All Blacks performing Ka Mate on the 1924 Invincibles tour of the UK to understand that. And of course in recent years, the All Blacks have developed their own haka, Kapa O Pango, which adds to that kaupapa.
So we're willing to bet that if and when the All Blacks do meet South Africa at some point in the money rounds of RWC2011, there will be a fair bit of added ferocity in the haka. And when the All Blacks carry that ferocity into the match, the South Africans will be unappreciative of their coach providing motivation for their opposition!