What is the Sipi Tau?
Akin to the Haka, famously performed by the New Zealand All Blacks, the Sipi Tau is a ferocious war dance performed by the Tonga national rugby union team, a.k.a. the Ikale Tahi, or Sea Eagles, by way of laying down a challenge to the opposition. The current version of the Sipi Tau was written at the best of the erstwhile King of Tonga, Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV, to commemorate a successful, albeit short, tour of New Zealand in 1994. The dance, which originally took over two minutes to perform, is accompanied by an emotional, highly charged war cry, which warns, ominously, ‘Today, destroyer of souls, I am everywhere.’
The Sipi Tau was first performed, in its contemporary form, at the third Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995. Nevertheless, while far from being an ancient ritual, the Sipi Tau serves as a reminder of the history and culture of the Pacific Islands and, for the Tongan players, evokes the warrior spirit of their seafaring ancestors. Prior to the Sipi Tau, the Sea Eagles traditionally performed another Tongan cultural dance, known as the Kailao, which involved clubs or sticks.