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TJ Perenara Backs Hurricanes Poua After Haka

TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes responds to a haka from supporters in recognition of his 100th game. Photo: Hagen Hopkins

TJ Perenara has come out in support of the Hurricanes Poua following the controversy over the Aupiki's side's haka, saying he backs his female clubmates and their stance.

"I share similar views to our women and what was said. I back our women, I stand with our women," Perenara said at the Hurricanes' NZCIS training base on Tuesday.

"We use haka to express ourselves for whatever emotion we are feeling."

The Poua's haka in round one of Super Rugby Aupiki against Chiefs Manawa made reference to "puppets of the redneck government".

It caused widespread debate that reached all the way to Parliament, with deputy prime minister Winston Peters criticising the Poua's decision to make a statement through their haka. The following weekend in Wellington, the side performed another haka with references to the government and to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 09: Hurricanes Poua perform a haka during the round two Super Rugby Aupiki match between Hurricanes Poua and Matatu at Sky Stadium on March 09, 2024 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Hurricanes Poua perform a haka during the round two Super Rugby Aupiki match between Hurricanes Poua and Matatu at Sky Stadium on 9 March, 2024 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Getty Images / Hagen Hopkins

Poua head coach Ngatai Walker said "there may be misinterpretation of individual words".

"The intent of the meaning is, 'Aotearoa unite, Hurutearangi (female god of the wind) has arrived; challenges may come and go, but we will endure'."

In their next match in Auckland against the Blues Women, the Poua did not perform a haka at all, saying that the players had made a decision not to.

Perenara, who has been kaea (leader) of the All Black haka for much of his 80-test career, has shown support for wider causes in the past, notably in 2019 when he wore a wristband with 'Ihumātao' written on it during a Bledisloe Cup test and visiting the site of the protest aimed at stopping a planned housing development.



"Haka is something that us as Māori use as a way to express ourselves ... whether that's through celebration, frustration," he said.

"A lot of people who have spoken on haka only want to see one side of haka. They say I want this side but you can't do it for that reason, and that's not okay to me."

The 32-year-old made his comeback in the Hurricanes' 29-21 win over the Blues in round three of Super Rugby Pacific, after a 17-month break due to a serious Achilles tendon injury picked up in the All Blacks' final test of the 2022 season against England.

Perenara scored his 59th career Super Rugby try in the Hurricanes' win over the Rebels in Palmerston North on Friday, putting him in third on the competition's all-time leaders.

The Hurricanes face the Highlanders this Saturday evening in Dunedin, while the Poua travel to Christchurch to play defending champions Matatū on Friday afternoon.

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