New Zealand performed an emotional Haka ahead of their clash with America on Saturday, in honour of Sean Wainui, who passed away in a car accident earlier in the week.
Māori All Blacks and Chiefs centre Wainui passed away after a car crash in the early hours of Monday, October 18th, at the age of 25.
The young centre and occasional winger had amassed 10 appearances for the Māori All Blacks, scoring 40 points, while also representing New Zealand at U20 level.
He also made headlines earlier this year when he became the first Super Rugby player to score five tries in a single match, in the Chiefs’ one-sided win over the Waratahs in Sydney.
This haka is for you Sean, fly high brother. 🕊️🖤
Moe mai okioki ai#USAvNZL #1874Cup pic.twitter.com/mgtoUEh37N
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 23, 2021
Many of the All Blacks players in the 23 were teammates of Wainui either at club level or during his time with the Mãori All Blacks and U20's sides, making their performance of the traditional Ka Mate Haka even more emotional for New Zealand.
Prior to the performance of the Haka, the USA laid down a jersey with the number 11 on it, in honour of the late, rising star.
This was the latest in a long line of emotional tributes to Wainui, which started on Monday when New Zealand Rugby released their statement following the incident.
“Our thoughts are with Sean and his whānau [family], particularly Paige, Kawariki and Arahia, and we offer them our full support at what is the most difficult of times,” NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said in the statement.
“We know Sean’s passing will be felt deeply by everyone involved in rugby, particularly his Bay of Plenty and Chiefs teammates, and we share their sorrow and their shock.”
New Zealand Māori Rugby Board chair Farah Palmer said the game of rugby was in mourning.
“As a player we all saw what this young tāne was capable of and the passion and talent that he brought to the teams he represented, but we also saw a role model for young Māori, a caring father who was passionate about his culture, his language, and his identity,” Palmer said. “He will be sorely missed.”
Māori All Blacks, Chiefs and former Bay of Plenty head coach Clayton McMillan added that Wainui was an influential member of the teams he played in.
“Sean was an incredibly talented individual and held a great amount of mana among his fellow teammates and the wider rugby community,” McMillan said.
“He epitomised everything you could possibly ask for in a player. He will be remembered for being a passionate, hard-working, proud Māori who was an exceptional player but more importantly father and husband.”
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