Sport | Haka

Chiefs Manawa haka mystery: Why did Ruby Tui, Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu not participate?

Chiefs Manawa players Ruby Tui and Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu did not participate in their team’s haka in last Saturday’s match against the Blues.

The Chiefs are not providing an explanation for the mysterious boycott.

It comes in the wake of the controversy surrounding the Hurricanes Poua haka.

The Chiefs are providing no explanation for why two of their star women’s players staged a remarkable boycott of their team’s haka last Saturday.

Black Ferns duo Ruby Tui and Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu did not participate in the traditional pre-game haka performed by Chiefs Manawa in the Super Rugby Aupiki match against the Blues at Auckland’s Bell Park.

Instead, the pair stood at the back, motionless, as the team performed He Piko, He Taniwha, before rejoining their team-mates for a match the visitors went on to win 17-10.

Poua challenge

It comes on the back of controversy surrounding two haka performed by Hurricanes Poua in the past fortnight, which included reference to the Treaty of Waitangi and initially labelled the coalition government as “rednecks” when translated.

Tui is arguably the biggest name in the New Zealand women’s game, while Marino-Tauhinu often leads the Chiefs haka, has done the same for the national team since 2022 and last year became the first Black Fern ever to receive a moko kauae.

It only made their non-participation last Saturday that much more intriguing.

Asked for an explanation, the Chiefs initially provided a statement to Stuff that read:

“The haka is a form of self expression and we saw that today [Saturday], Te Ao Māori is central to who we are and Chiefs support our players on and off field.”

Pressed on the reasoning for the players’ motives to withdraw, though, a Chiefs spokesperson said it was not their place to comment on their reasoning, and sent a statement attributed to Chiefs chairman Bill Osborne, reading: “The Chiefs Rugby Club takes a one team approach to everything we do in the club.

Focus on supporting players

“The Chiefs Manawa karanga prior to the haka spoke of the importance of Te Ao Māori. Te Ao Māori principles are integrated in our club’s strategy and an important part of our Chiefs culture. The karanga, haka and waiata are important rituals for our organisation.

“Our focus is on supporting our players, preparing and winning the Aupiki and Super Rugby Pacific competitions.”

Stuff requested, then, on both Monday and Tuesday, to ask the players about it direct, but were told by a Chiefs spokesperson that they did not want to talk, and that even when the team (who aren’t fulltime professional) gather on Thursday and there is an opportunity for an interview with one player, that would still be the case.

The same was said when Stuff asked to talk to coach Crystal Kaua, while New Zealand Rugby directed Stuff back to the Chiefs.

And while Stuff made contact with Chiefs chief executive Simon Graafhuis by text message, after phone calls went unanswered, a Chiefs spokesperson said he had too busy a schedule on Tuesday.

It will now be up to everyone to draw their own conclusions about why Tui and Marino-Tauhinu were stationed out the back.

Showing support?

One school of thought is that they were in some way showing their support for the under-fire Poua.

That theory seems to carry further weight when you closely analyse the Manawa haka from week one to week two. While the haka itself does not change, the karanga prior to it does.

Although it’s difficult to make out exactly what she said in the season-opener against the Hurricanes in Hamilton, a translation suggests Marino-Tauhinu responded off the cuff to the Poua references to the government with a few words of her own.

Just where the pair stand, literally, remains to be seen come Saturday’s clash against Matatū at Waikato Stadium.

- Stuff