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15 Sep 2011

Practice makes perfect for powerful Nelson College haka

On 20 September, 1200 students from Nelson College will walk from the school, down upper Trafalgar St, in a procession led by the College Staff, the Mayor, Old Boys and the Nelson College Rugby team who will be playing in the Re-enactment of the First Game of Rugby that afternoon.

They will gather at the Church Steps at 12 noon where the entire school will then be led in a rousing haka by the Maori Deputy Head Boy – Te Wera Mihaere. This is performed as a gesture of welcome to honour the two teams, Nelson College and Nelson Rugby Club, who will compete at the Botanics Reserve at 1pm.

The students have been practicing the haka on a regular basis since April 2009. Headmaster Gary O’Shea said “Although the school has performed the haka en masse before at events such as the opening of the Te Ara Poutama (the College’s Whare) this will be the first time it has been performed in such a public setting and away from the School grounds, so the regular practice has been important to ensure that the boys put on a superb display.”

The haka that will be performed is used by Nelson College on special occasions. It was adapted by Wayne Hippolite from a haka composed by Hone (John) Nuku-Tarawhiti, who was a teacher of Te Reo at Nelson College during the 1990’s. The original haka imbued the performers to get the blood rushing or the adrenalin pumping prior to the challenge ahead that the team faces. The adaptation also incorporates Nelson College’s values, goals and aim of preparing young men to take their place in the world. “Knowing who we are and where we are going motivates us on the sports field or court, in the class room and in our community” said Gary O’Shea “and to be able to welcome the two teams who played the first game of Rugby in NZ with a haka is a great honour for us.”

Following the haka, two horse-drawn carriages will transport the Mayor and Mayoress and other VIPs and dignitaries and lead the crowds from the top of Trafalgar Street to the Botanics Reserve on Milton Street where the Re-enactment game will take place. This celebrates Nelson’s position as the Birthplace of NZ Rugby in 1870. At the Re-enactment game, both teams of 18 players and the referee will be dressed in replica uniforms and will play using modified rules from 1870. Prior to kick off at 1pm there will be time for spectators to browse period displays and enjoy Victorian style entertainment.  The Re-enactment of the First Game of Rugby is Nelson City council’s flagship event of the Game On Festival, a two month long festival featuring over 30 different events.