Aaron Smith is taking extra steps to ensure his leadership of the All Blacks haka is carried out with authority.
Smith has added a splash of water to his pre-Test routine to ensure he hits no unwanted high notes when leading the haka.
Smith was proud to be anointed haka leader following the departure of three players who shared the role in 2015.
Former captain Richie McCaw and Keven Mealamu have retired while Liam Messam is committed to sevens rugby this year.
Nerves and excitement ahead of the first Test against Wales in Auckland may have contributed to an unwelcome moment during the haka when Smith’s voice “cracked a little high”.
The diminutive halfback of Ngati Kahungunu descent didn’t want a repeat in the second Test at Wellington, taking a swig of water between the anthems and the haka. He’ll do the same before the third Test starts in Dunedin.
“I’ve got little plans in place to make me feel more comfy,” he said.
“Now trying to settle down a bit after the haka is probably the hardest thing for me.”
Smith, who will win his 50th cap on Saturday, revealed his very first Test haka was delivered with less gusto.
He was so anxious about pulling a muscle before his debut against Ireland at Eden Park four years ago that he kept movement to a minimum.
“Then I remember when the ball kicked off I thought: ‘Yay, I’m finally an All Black. I’m part of this beautiful team’.”