The Return of the Springbok Haka

There was a time when the South African national rugby team, the Springboks, used to perform a Zulu war cry, since been called the “Springbok Haka” or “South African Haka”. This was reportedly last carried out at an official ceremony in the 1950s, after this practice was sadly stopped by the nationalistic government of the day. For the first time since then, it was carried out at an official event. The Warrior Training Centre (WTC) trained Martial Arts Display Team once again performed this cherished war cry on the 6th December 2018, as part of the Youth Leadership Development Programme (YLDP) graduation parade of c. 600 young South Africans.

Guest of Honour: Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha for rural development.
Photo: Helen Galanakis

The first phase of their training was held at Thaba Nchu NARYSEC College run by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) for the final phase held in Saldanha. The WTC trained these young future leaders in self-defence and the fundamentals of warrior ethos, to have a warrior mindset as a life tool to overcome challenges that they may face later in life. This self-defence training formed part of a wider leadership programme, with the overall aim of empowering them via discipline, entrepreneurial skills as well as social development and upliftment skills. These are integral to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s youth leadership development programme. Overall and in conjunction with the SANDF, the programme aims to build character by focussing on leadership, discipline, teamwork, volunteerism and patriotism.

The Build up

After the WTC trained the YLDP in self-defence – with the assistance of the UK’s Krav Maga Combat Academy for the first phase of training where almost 600 were trained at once – a selection was held by way of fun competitions testing perseverance, to determine the suitable candidates for the display team. Of the almost 600 group, 30 were selected. The training was demanding as it required hours of effort and perseverance, with natural attrition resulting in the official Martial Arts Display team consisting of eight dedicated and deserving “warriors”.

YLDP Martial Arts Display team with their completion certificates.
Photo: Helen Galanakis

The display kicked off with the forgotten Zulu war cry, once performed by the Springboks being performed with passion. The war cry and the display were notably well received as evidenced by the rousing reception from those in attendance. World Cup winning coach Jake White made headlines in 2007 when he called for the revival of the Springbok Haka, pointing out that the history books show that the Springboks did indeed perform a Zulu war dance in major matches whilst on tour. Just as the battle tested Zulu battle cry of the advancing impi would have had a blood curdling effect on the mightiest of opponents, it would have had a heightening effect on the advancing impi, strengthening their warrior spirit. When incited during battle, it called upon their ancestors to bestow upon them the strength and bravery of fallen Zulu warriors. The most famous battle cry being King Cetshwayo’s “Usutho!” which would have no doubt roared at the Battle of Isandlwana.

WTC Claudio Chiste said, “In this current chapter of honouring Forgotten Valour of many of our heroes who were denied honour in the past, or have since been forgotten, this is one further step towards embracing our proud warrior heritage. We are a warrior nation. I would like to see more of our sports team follow this initiative, particularly our national teams, bringing our war cry back to life”

In addition to self-defence, the team were taught about the “Warrior Ethos” and that to overcome adversity one needs to have “fighting spirit”, therefore the self defence also served as a metaphor for the ability to overcome: A valuable lesson for these youth who are only at the start of their adult life.

YLDP graduate Sheroleigh Wilschut said “I think I have really learned valuable life skills which I can use for the rest of my life… feeling empowered. I feel if anyone were to attack me, I could now safely and confidently defence myself”

The next phase after the graduation, these young graduates will be deployed to working environments, in either the public or private sector, to further sharpen their “employability skills”. Some will find themselves interned to the sponsor department.

This was the eighth YLDP intake which has had more than 4 600 young people attend its courses, the majority of which are staged at SANDF bases where qualified instructors supervise all training. Medicals are conducted before training starts by SA Military Health Services to ensure students are fit for the physical rigours of the course.

Watch the video of the Zulu war cry here:

This exciting news also featured in The SouthAfrican, see: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/the-return-of-the-springbok-haka/

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