Over the last two weeks, the ‘haka’ has been the subject of more news coverage than the rugby. It started in Cardiff a week ago. Usually, at their home ground, the Welsh team can rely on a combination of massed male voice choirs, Land of our Fathers and Katherine Jenkins to give them the psychological edge-except against the All Blacks.
They have the haka. Performed immediately before the whistle, for maximum impact, The Maori war chant once came before battle where ‘exaggerated grimaces are used to throw fear into the hearts of the enemy’. Today, ‘it animates the players combative spirit’. As Sean Fitzpatrick, legendary All Black captain, said on television “the haka is about us”.
Last week the Welsh tried to undo the haka by standing still and tall. Mid-week, English players were quoted, ” Your dreaded haka doesn’t frighten me” said Nick Collins, “Flutey insists he can hack the haka”. Yesterday, the crowd at Twickenham tried to counter it with a raucous ‘swing low sweet chariot’. It was fun but the All Blacks were always going to win.
The point of all this? Pitching, whether in battle, on the field or in the office is about performance. How you start matters! A powerful, surprise opening is critical. It lifts you up. It lifts your audience. It fires expectation.