Boks backed to win mental war
Cape Town - The phenomenon of knockout sport produces a whole new variety of pressures and situations to deal with, which often leads to many of the world’s most gifted sportsmen and woman suffering a mental meltdown.
Therefore, according to some of the country’s top sport doctors and psychologists, the experience and character of the Springbok squad will count for much when they take to the field to face the Wallabies in Sunday’s do-or-die quarter-final clash in Wellington’s famed 'Cake Tin'.
However, while most of the squad have dealt with pressures of similar magnitude, not everyone can deal with it in the same way, explained Jannie Putter in Wednesday’s Die Burger.
“Players differ from one another and each one must be given the space to deal with the pressure they are experiencing. Some players will want to talk about something while others will want to keep to themselves,” said Putter, who served as the Blue Bulls’ psychologist for five years.
He believes that it is especially important to protect the younger players as one negative word may create doubt.
“It is all about top-level pressure - the team who can, in spite of the pressure, take advantage of their opportunities.”
Well known sports psychologist Dr Henning Gericke, who was part of the successful Springboks side which lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2007, says that the team must not be too confident, which could result in complacency.
“South Africa have always performed well when they were the underdogs. We like to fight for things and we flourish under those circumstances. True champions can win if they are the favourites, but players must be careful not to say too much like: ‘We are ready for them and we are going to gobble them up’.”
Meanwhile, world-renowned physiologist at the Sports Science Institute, Professor Tim Noakes, explained that knowing that rugby has a special place in South African hearts will count in the Boks’ favour and that every game from this point will become psychological warfare.
“There must be no moment of doubt experienced between any one of them. Every team will use their physical presence to try and break the other team’s mental strength.”