The All Blacks are arguably New Zealand's most potent export. Their prowess on the field and their record as three-time Rugby World Cup champs (1987, 2011 and 2015) make them fine ambassadors for the game of rugby. So it is perhaps only natural, and expected, that others will try to emulate them.
Since 1906, the All Blacks have laid down a challenge to their opponents with the haka "Ka Mate," a war cry that was composed in the 1820s by New Zealand's Te Rauparaha, a Maori chief of the Ngati Toa tribe. Little did Te Rauparaha know that almost 200 years later, school boys in southern Africa would adopt the haka and make it their own.
For Churchill High School -- an all-boys day and boarding school in Zimbabwe -- the haka tradition started in 1995 when one of its coaches, John Kristu, asked the rugby team to come up with a ritual to make them stand out. That year during the Rugby World Cup, the "Ka Mate" performance of late All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu captured the players' imagination.
"Lomu would do the haka with such passion, and we wanted to replicate that," says Tendai Gara, one of the Churchill players who founded their haka. "We called ourselves the All Blacks because we were the rascals of Zimbabwean rugby, we were always controversial, we were always bigger, we always hit harder than everyone else, so we considered ourselves just the same as the All Blacks. That's why we decided to adopt the New Zealand haka."
Gara and his teammates used their own school war cry as the foundation and incorporated their version of the All Blacks haka to add ferocity. The result was a unique haka that's a mash-up of their language, Shona, as well as their interpretation of the Maori words. And unlike the All Blacks, who perform the haka before the match as a challenge, the Churchill boys perform theirs only after a win or if they feel their effort earned the right to perform it.
Here's a look at the team as they head into a game against rival Prince Edward School -- practicing, of course, their haka.
Churchill players such as Akim Dick, left, who is practicing the haka with his teammates, consider the haka a reward and an honor. Only those in the team who are considered up to "standard," usually the senior players, are allowed to perform the haka, and only a select few are tasked with teaching it to the younger players.
Churchill was segregated from its inception in 1950 until 1980 when the country -- then Rhodesia -- gained independence, allowing the majority black population to attend the school. Originally called Salisbury East Boys' High School, it changed its name after the principal wrote to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to ask him for permission to use his namesake. Today, Churchill has more than 1,300 boys at the school and has both day and boarding offerings.
Blessing Nota prepares to take on Prince Edward School. The schools are both situated in the town of Harare and form part of the strong schoolboy rugby competition in the country. Churchill, a government school, does not have the resources of private schools such as Prince Edward. But with skilled coaches -- and equally skilled and passionate players -- the school continues to have a strong rugby program.
Churchill's head coach, Geoff Madhake, uses this rugby scrum machine to teach his players the right technique. In addition, pieces of concrete add the weight needed to give resistance to the eight boys who push it forward during practice.
Assistant coach Bob Mahari, left, watches closely as the Churchill runs through drills at a training session.
Secondary school rugby is very competitive in Zimbabwe. Many private schools are investing money and coaching resources into the sport. It is not uncommon for thousands of spectators, including former pupils, to come and watch games with players such as Churchill's Tanaka Mumbamaro, who is all power and emotion.
After the team's final major practice before their game against Prince Edward, Akim Dick, center, leads a war cry. And the louder, the better: The cry must show what the team means to the players.
The team lifts up Farai Ndlovu to celebrate his birthday. He eventually has water poured over him as part of the celebration.
Farai Ndlovu, right, who plays the positions of fullback or flyhalf, turns on the gas at training. The team practices three afternoons a week from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., when the sun sets. The boys are from a variety of backgrounds and either live locally, are day scholars or board at the school.
Nigel Tinarwo, from left, Cosmas Mubaiwa and Blithe Mavesere practice their haka the morning after a scheduled game against Vainona High School. Vainona forfeited the game, an occurrence that is prevalent in Zimbabwean schoolboy rugby. Some of the weaker performers in rugby will not show up to be beaten heavily by the stronger schools such as Churchill.
Time for a water break. Although some believe the water isn't the safest to drink, there are not many alternatives within the vicinity.
Nigel Tinarwo practices his pukana and haka actions. Pukana is the term that the Maori, the New Zealand indigenous people, use for the expressive tongue out and eyes wide open. This helps emphasize words and adds excitement when laying down a challenge or haka. "New Zealand people should be proud that people from Zimbabwe are taking their culture and promoting here," says 17-year-old Tinarwo.
In addition to rugby, Churchill is known for its pipe band and cricket. The school has produced many sportsmen who have gone on to represent the former Rhodesia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, including current South African Springboks rugby prop Tendai Mtawarira.
Seventeen-year-old Jacob Feriesu, right, a drum major at Churchill, practices under the tutelage of coach Christopher Mtendebrure. The high school has a strong music department, with drums and bagpipes among the offerings available.
At an away game at Prince Edward, there are no locker rooms available for Churchill -- so they make do near the practice fields. At least 3,000 people are expected to attend the game. Churchill hopes to win so they can perform their haka.
It's a full house at the game between Churchill (fans at right) and Prince Edward. The fans sing and chant in support of their team. The bellowing sounds from each side of the bleachers let the other side know when their team scores points or produces a big hit.
Victor Mupunga, team captain for Churchill, says, 'When I do the haka, I am paying respects to my opponent."
Churchill's Nigel Tinarwo, in foreground, does his job by putting pressure on the scrumhalf for Prince Edward at the base of a scrum.
There is plenty of excitement as students from Churchill cheer on their team as they play against Prince Edward.
Tinarwo makes a sniping run down the blind side, gaining valuable meters for his team heading toward the try line. Tinarwo also is a member of the Zimbabwe under 18 academy and has been identified as a talented up-and-coming player.
James Owuru, who is put in a precautionary neck brace and stretcher at the final whistle against Prince Edward, was born in Canada. He and his family moved to Zimbabwe when he was 11 years old. His younger brother Matthew also plays on the team.
Often, players with talent move abroad to continue their rugby careers, as there is no professional competition in Zimbabwe. Here, Albert Garira, right, fends off a Prince Edward player.
The game ended in a 31-20 loss for Churchill. The game's score line went back and forth, making for an entertaining match. As a result of the defeat, Mupunga, left, and his teammates did not perform their haka.