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Bush embrace Pasifika culture

If you wanted proof of the influence of Pasifika people on rugby, you only need to look at the Rugby World Cup, where the number of players with Pacific Island heritage is evident in many of the 20 teams.

But closer to home, their impact on national competitions is significant, and embracing those various cultures has become an important aspect of the Copthorne Wairarapa-Bush team in this season’s Heartland Championship, both before the games as well as after the final whistle.

The Ko Wairarapa haka is a stirring and popular challenge to opposition teams and is now performed with passion by the Wai-Bush players before the kickoff of each game, whereas in previous years, it has been performed sparingly.

However, it is the after-match celebrations that have a definite Pasifika feel, with the players gathering in a circle on the field for the singing of the traditional Fijian hymn ‘Eda sa qaqa’.

The idea came from Wai-Bush coach Reece Robinson, who reached out to veteran Fijian Inia Katia and some of his fellow countrymen earlier in the year.

“We’ve got quite a few Fijian boys in the team, and part of our culture is we want to embrace all our ethnicities,” Robinson said.

“It’s pretty cool, and Ili [Isireli Biumaiwai], the No. 8, explained why they sing after the games. They’re away from home, and it makes them feel a little bit more comfortable, and it’s just a part of their tradition after a win.

“They make a lot of sacrifices for their family, and it’s part of their culture, and that’s what they do, and it’s been great for us to develop that as well.”

The ‘Eda sa qaqa’ hymn translates as:

We have overcome

We have overcome

By the blood of the lamb

And the word of the Lord

We have overcome

Take a moment and listen after today’s game it’s beautifully performed and a moving way to finish.

As well as the Fijians, the Wai-Bush squad features Tongans, Samoans, Cook Islanders, and Maori. That diversity is also recognised by the singing of a traditional Māori waiata, ‘Purea nei’, at the after match.

With more than half of the 23-man strong squad for today’s game of Maori or Pasifika heritage, Robinson said, “It’s really important that we get a good culture, and it has been fantastic this year, and let’s hope it continues.”

Another Fijian tradition after the dust has settled is the imbibing of the Fijian drink kava, although Robinson admits he only partakes occasionally.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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