I like the Haka, I think it brings an extra dimension to TV, but let’s have it at the end of the match, not at the beginning. The dance now performed isn’t even the traditional Maori form.
The All Blacks do obtain significant biological advantages at the beginning of each game from performing the Haka. From a physiological standpoint, all the shouting and posturing the Haka brings with it causes enhanced levels of adrenalin and testosterone to be released into the blood stream. These in turn boost Oxygen and energy levels in the blood and muscles, warming the body up generally, and making it ready for action in a biological sense that any team that has to stand and watch, quietly, without moving, are completely deprived of. Even worse, the fight or flight responses of the non-performers produce different hormones, ones that a boxer would recognise before entering a fight he fears he will lose and one which so many battle displays are designed to create in one’s opponent. Not for nothing are war cries used even today by modern armies and soldiers.
There is also a psychological component, but this can be managed to a large degree through the use of mind control techniques. The main effect is the same as taking an injection of chemicals just before a match begins. It could be argued that it is cheating.
Are the All Blacks so insecure about their playing abilities that they can’t play without this extra advantage? Or do they know it gives them an extra boost just before kick off that helps them score first, thus changing the flavour of the rest of the game so the opposing team is always fighting an uphill battle?
Traditionally, most Rugby matches at club level end up with both teams’ players having beers together in the clubhouse until the early hours. Performing the Haka at the end of the match would then be seen as a real welcome, more akin with the traditional origins which have somehow been lost in the modern form. Remember, to a Maori the Haka is traditionally not a war dance performed before physical battle, but it is a welcome dance performed before two groups socialise together, a challenge to identify any warlike intentions the “foreigners” may harbour. Moving the dance to the end of the match would also show respect for winners or losers – winners because they played well, losers because they gained the respect of the victors through the character and nature of the way they played.
That would meld together the two traditions, the Maori and the Rugby joined as one. Leaving it as it is only gives the team who perform it an unfair advantage. Rugby isn’t supposed to be like that.