THE All Blacks' pre-match "throat-slitting" gesture may be making a return for the Rugby World Cup.
The final act of the alternative haka Kapa o Pango, an aggressive drawing of the thumb across the neck, was toned down after complaints from the public and opposing sides.
A Rugby Union review of the newer haka in 2006 concluded it was not offensive, but nevertheless it was changed in 2007 to a raking gesture across the chest.
But before Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match several players, including haka leader Piri Weepu, appeared to have reverted to the original gesture.
It did not go unnoticed, and many Australian newspapers referred to its chilling effect.
The Sydney Morning Herald said the "provocative" haka "appeared to have the desired effect of unsettling their opponents".
The Daily Telegraph also noted the return of the aggressive expression "that had previously been abandoned due to bad taste".
The newspaper said the "fearsome rendition" of Kapa o Pango foreshadowed the way the All Blacks "ruthlessly killed off" the Australian side.
Sports website Sportal described the challenge as "one of the fiercest hakas you'll ever see".
Kapa o Pango composer, Gisborne artist Derek Lardelli, has defended the haka's conclusion.
He said it was a symbol not of violence but of the cutting edge of sport.
The NZRU put the new haka on hold in 2006 during Ireland's tour of New Zealand in order to review whether it was in bad taste.
That decision came after many complaints in the lead-up to the test from members of the public.
The NZRU's review concluded that the gesture had a radically different meaning in Maori culture and within the haka tradition. It was believed to represent "hauora", the breathing of life into the heart and lungs.
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