Tall Blacks to unleash new haka at World Cup

MARC HINTON
Last updated 10:50 31/08/2014

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The Tall Blacks have taken a leaf out of the All Blacks' book and unleashed a new haka on the sporting world.

In what's certain to be a move that has the hoops game sitting up and taking notice, the New Zealand men's basketball team have taken their traditional haka and updated it up with their own twist on their pre-game challenge.

Today's pool opener against Turkey in Bilbao saw the Tall Blacks unveil their new specially designed haka on to a fully fledged Fiba tournament for the first time.

The Tall Blacks' Tu Kaha O Pango Te Kahikatia haka is a revival of an old hit, but it's gone down a treat with the current band of Kiwi basketballers taking their show on the world stage.

The new haka was first introduced in 2007 by then Tall Black Paora Winitana who took ownership of it and sought a specific challenge that reflected what the basketballers were about. But it lapsed soon thereafter when there was a change in personnel and the traditional Ka Mate was reintroduced,

"It's special to the team," said Tall Blacks assistant coach Paul Henare who recalls the Te Kahikatia being first introduced. "The Kahikutia tree has an awesome roots system and it's about our strength and honour for the black singlet. It's unique to us - Mika [Vukona] first approached me to talk to Paoroa and touch base about bringing it back into the team."

Like the All Blacks, the basketballers have been well schooled in the meaning of their new haka, and as a result feel a lot more connected to it.

"Sometimes the Tall Blacks over the years have been guilty of just doing the haka just to do the haka," Henare added. "This has brought so much meaning back into doing the haka, and also a little bit of ownership and pride, and why we're doing it and what it means."

The result has been an impressive pre-game challenge that has taken Europe by storm in the buildup, and is sure to be a big hit in Spain at the global tournament.

The Tall Blacks' first opponents, Turkey, ignored the haka, walking past the New Zealand players towards their bench. The Tall Blacks turned and moved towards the Turkish bench.

Tall Blacks guard Lindsay Tait is the designated leader of the new haka and said it was a "cool" honour to have bestowed on him in the later years of his career. He just now wanted to establish the new challange

Haka newbie Casey Frank felt there remained enough feeling and passion among the Tall Blacks' leaders to ensure it remained true to its purpose.

"Paora was the driving force behind it, but he came back in and taught it to some of the younger guys, and it's one been put in specifically for the Tall Blacks," he said.

In 2002 the Tall Blacks haka went down a treat at the global event, even making the front pages of the New York Times in the process. The challenge for the new boys will be to make sure they get as much out of their revamped version as they have previously.

Like the tree, this haka needs to sprout root.

Marc Hinton travelled to Spain with the assistance of Basketball New Zealand.

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