“To see someone of non-Māori descent go through these steps, I was pretty proud” - TJ

By Jamie Wall

TJ Perenara

TJ Perenara expressed his admiration for All Black captain Kieran Read today in Beppu, saying that the two had spoken prior to the first World Cup match about the team’s haka.

“KJ (Read) has been doing a lot of work on his role as a kaea and his pronunciation of Māori words. The work he’s been putting in, I think’s been awesome” the halfback told media today at the team’s hotel.

“He’s the leader of our group, he’s the leader of the team. When he steps up and leads haka I think the mana it gives our team…to see a non-Māori go through the processes to learn why he’s leading haka and doing it the way he performed it…that’s special to me not even as a rugby player, not even as a team mate. As a Maori, to see someone of non-Maori descent go through these steps, I was pretty proud.”

Read and Perenara have worked together to both lead the All Black haka during the tournament, after the captain led the pre-match challenge for the first time ever last year in Rome against Italy.

Perenara also touched on his growing understanding of his own heritage, when thoughtfully asked by an English journalist about being a ‘student’ of haka.

“I grew up with haka, but I don’t know everything about it. I’m currently on my journey in speaking te reo Māori as well and my journey with Māoritanga. I know that I don’t know everything about it and I know there’s people out there that are more educated than me. My ability to grow in this space is something that I pride myself on as well.”

Perenara and Read are both in the starting line up for the All Blacks in their next match against Canada on Wednesday night in Oita.