My favourite moment of what was a
thoroughly enjoyable Springbok demolition of the Welsh in Durban last Saturday
was Willie le Roux reminding debutant Cornal Hendricks that he owed him a beer
for gifting the new boy a try that the man of the match could easily have
One, it says a lot about Le Roux himself,
and two, it says a lot about the team culture. This Bok side have been hugely
welcoming and supportive of the two new boys Hendricks and Lood de Jager. The
high fives, head taps, man-hugs and quiet words in the new player’s ears speak
to what looks to be a special close family type “gees” in the team.
And they are starting to look like they are
With that Frans Steyn “weight of the world
on my shoulders” scowl now absent, perhaps this crop will better appreciate the
fact that they are indeed playing a game that has the ability to entertain
millions of people … and that we do not mind them enjoying themselves while
Culture, or “gees”, so key in a team sport,
is a particularly difficult thing to cultivate and manage, and for what we are
seeing in the Bok camp now, both coach Heyneke Meyer and skipper Victor
Matfield deserve huge credit.
Team culture is developed over time, with
continuity and loyalty in selection often a driving force given that it is
easier to build in a group that does not change much. Meyer, perhaps loyal to a
fault, is an astute, well-read coach who thinks about the game a lot …
Every now and then an industry is hit by a
"Ten Times" force - forces or changes that have become 10 times what
they were just recently ... Whether one uses that force to turn it into a
successful inflection point is determined by the leadership at the helm at the
time, and how far into the future they can see.
So says former CEO of Intel Corporation
Andrew Grove in his book "Only the paranoid survive" ... And in his
book "Coach", author Marco Botha, rightfully describes the arrival of
professionalism in rugby as a proper "Ten Times" force, and Heyneke
Meyer as the visionary leader who sold the Blue Bulls Company a vision that
looked far into the future ...
- Put together the best available
management team and develop them further
- Recruit and retain the most
- Create a professional
environment in which players can develop into world class players and
- Establish a science based conditioning
programme that will allow these players to develop to their potential
- Play a brand of rugby that is
marketable, fills stadia and attracts sponsors
So without the budget to buy in big name
players, he persuaded the Bulls to spend money on a strong management team so
he could develop players. He won the Vodacom Cup in 2001, and took a lot of
those players on a ride with him that culminated in the Bulls being crowned
Super Rugby champs in 2007.
In his side that day were Gurthrö
Steenkamp, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield (Captain), Pierre Spies, Fourie du
Preez, Bryan Habana, Wynand Olivier and Morné Steyn.
And I think that answers the question as to
why Meyer went with Wynand Olivier on the bench this Saturday ahead of S'Buru
Sithole, Paul Jordaan and JJ Engelbrecht (who seems to have fallen off the
Meyer ship completely).
A coach needs to balance loyalty and
continuity with keeping the squad fresh and building depth by introducing
younger players when he can. To my mind this was an opportunity for the latter.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt
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