The British and Irish Lions watched Auckland Blues perform a special haka for the first time ever on Wednesday, in memory of two fallen stars.
Warren Gatland’s side took on the Blues in the second match of their New Zealand tour and witnessed the club side’s haka – which was dedicated to Jonah Lomu and Kurtis Haiu – before kick-off.
It was the first time in the Blues’ 21-year history that the traditional Maori warrior dance has been used prior to one of their matches.
Auckland Blues performed a specially-commissioned haka before they faced the Lions
The British and Irish Lions watch on at Eden Park as their opponents perform the ritual dance
Lomu passed away from a heart in 2015 at the age of 40, while Haiu died of cancer aged 31 last year.
‘We realised we had something missing when we lost a couple of really important players from here – Kurtis Haiu and Jonah Lomu,’ revealed Blues high performance manager Tony Hanks.
‘With New Zealand and the way we mourn, you have the haka or a song. So we felt we had something missing and we needed something to represent us.
‘We had one of our local boys that played for our development side a bit who played for Auckland come up and he worked closely with Tana (Umaga, the Blues head coach) to capture things around the area.
The club said that the haka was dedicated to two former stars of the game who have died
Jonah Loma passed away following a heart attack in 2015 – he was just 40 years old
‘We talk about who we represent across the region – it’s about who’s coming next and we talk a lot about aspiration and we try to capture who we represent.
‘This is an aspirational piece for us with the big crowd, and performing the haka for the first time. These guys have got a big responsibility and we take that seriously.'[
This haka was composed by Whiria Meltzer and Ruka Makiha, who Blues coach Tana Umaga called upon to add to the Super Rugby side’s intimidation factor.
Blues backs Sam Nock and Ihaia West fronted the dance, named He Toa Takitini — meaning ‘The Strength of Many’.
Before the game, Blues coach Tana Umaga said it was the perfect opportunity for his men to pose a unique challenge to the tourists.
‘We have an exceptional group of men, who are proud of their Pacific cultures and are looking forward to connecting their heritages through a haka,’ Umaga said.
‘We have been practising for some time and the boys will be looking forward to getting out there for what will be a fantastic occasion.’
Umaga himself led many a haka when he captained the All Blacks during a stellar eight-year international career.
The Auckland players also used the haka to pay tribute to Kurtis Haiu, who died aged 31