Haka vs. Hip Hop - Y Magazine
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Haka vs. Hip Hop

The Cougarettes and the BYU men’s rugby team just keep winning. Both teams are reigning 2015 national champs—and both are on consecutive national-championship sprees. But which team is more impressive?

Cougarettes and BYU men's rugby players having a tug of war.

From left to right: Cougarettes Elizabeth “Libby” Fowler (’17), Lauren Zaharis Johnston (’16), and Kayla Bagshaw and rugby players Daniel Hubert, Arawa W. Elkington (’17), and Joshua C. Whippy (’18). Photo illustration by Bradley Slade.

One might say the Cougarettes—given their 15 national championships to rugby’s five. But the Cougarettes can win two a year (and have twice) and have had nearly a decade longer to rack up titles; the rugby team has played in tournaments only since 2004, when championships were no longer on Sundays. And there are no rugby scholarships (every Cougarette now gets one). It’s not so easy to crown a victor.

Below are comparables for each team. To whom does the trophy go? Vote at facebook.com/byumagazine.


Cougarettes: Last season multiple fouetté turns, a quad pirouette, and aerials on both sides were requirements. A keen memory is also a Cougarettes signature, says Coach Jodi May Maxfield (’80). “You have to learn a piece in two to three hours, run over to the Marriott Center, and perform it.” Every dancer has years of extensive training.

Rugby: No rugby experience required—Coach David N. Smyth (BS ’88) estimates 20 percent of his team learned the sport playing for BYU. “If you are a good athlete, we can teach you to play rugby,” says Smyth. One does have to  endure contact-—and sometimes black eyes, knocked-out teeth, dislocated fingers, and broken body parts.

Uniform Bling

Cougarettes: Rhinestones, says captain Kayla Walker Bagshaw (’15). A team mom is a professional “rhinestoner” who adds glitz to everything.

Rugby: Blood, says captain Daniel B. Hubert (’15). “The secret with blood,” says Smyth, who launders the uniforms at tournaments, “is the first cycle is always cold.”

Intimidation Factor

Cougarettes: With their record, “wearing BYU on our jackets or T-shirts is pretty intimidating to other teams,” says Maxfield.

Rugby: Players perform a pregame haka, a traditional Maori war dance. BYU’s version quotes Alma 53 and embodies respect, but with wide eyes and popping veins, it is fierce. “I like picking one player on the opposing team and staring him in the eye,” says Hubert.


Cougarettes: At every practice, the Cougarettes circle to sing a song their predecessors started singing in the ’40s, with lines like, “We’ll always remember today, when Cougarettes were part of us and crept in our hearts to stay!”

Rugby: At every practice, the players circle to sing a hymn. Other than that, says Smyth, “they just like to eat a lot.” The team favorite: Golden Corral.

More Bragging Rights

Cougarettes: The Cougarettes won the overall Grand Prix Award—and were voted “most friendly”—at the 2012 New Prague Dance Festival competition.

Rugby: There’s no “most friendly” award in rugby, but BYU has graduated 15 players who have gone on to play professionally, like Kyle R. Sumsion (’15), currently on the USA Eagles.