7 Lessons from the Rugby World Cup (even for ladies)

I see invisible people
October 12, 2015
Paying It Forward – What goes around comes around
February 1, 2016

After the Japan vs South Africa game I posted a letter of support for Heyneke Meyer on Facebook. It was a positive message (basically saying; keep your chin up and do not let the (mostly) idiotic rugby following public) who all have negative opinions, get you down.

Well that’s all water under the bridge now, the team playing in the South African colours are already home. Fortunately a large percentage of them are heading to the Shady Pines Retirement Village. A place they should have checked into, way before the Rugby World Cup.

So what did we learn – if anything, from the 2015 Springbok campaign that we can use in our own personal or professional lives?

Before I begin though, let me state from the onset that I am not any kind of rugby expert. In fact, I watch occasionally when box seats are offered (heads up to all corporates:-) or from the comfort of my leather, lazy chair. I played second-team rugby in my matric year for Mondeor High School where we lost most of the games (but usually won the fights during or afterwards).  As you probably know, I am a modern-day performance and results philosopher who loves to learn from true-life experiences. That being said here is my opinion –


People will kick you when you are down

When you are down, and your back is against the wall expect to be kicked in the nuts by the exact people you would have expected to support you. I refer here to the little Japanese event. Just ask Heyneke Meyer how many friends he had after that game! Like rats off a sinking ship he was left standing like Darren Scott at a team building event. After the Japan game any airhead, rugby wannabe who played 3rd team rugby for Kempton Park High in 1980 had an opinion and sprayed his uninformed, vile, vitriol out all over Facebook to his 17 “friends” who surprise-surprise all agreed with this armchair expert. Hey, that’s why they’re “friends”.

Have you ever stood your ground against a policy, procedure or nasty person on behalf of a team? The same team who complained to you, called for something to be done, something to be said? Then you stood up – said the say, but noticed all of a sudden that you were alone in the room. You were like Diane Kohler Barnard at a DA picnic.

The lesson – Stand your ground alone and do what you do, knowing that you are alone. Anyone who then stands by you is a bonus. If you make a mistake, and you will (we all do), know that you will stand alone – and anyone who supports you is a true friend.  


People are basically irrational

Especially people who cannot separate themselves from the link to an outside event or group. Sports fans are especially susceptible to irrational behavior. Even more so, if the fans follow a team that represents “their” country. They literally personalize the team’s personality, history, brand and results. They fail to see or to separate themselves from the team. This is why they talk about the team and themselves in the first person. “We” should have picked / “We” played so well. Oh really what position did you play, boerewors? I never saw you on the field. Oh! Maybe you were the invisible 9th man. (Because there isn’t one – there is an 8th man but… it’s a rugby thing ladies).

Notice also that when “we” lose, it is a very personal loss and people become sad, depressed, angry and drink a lot more than usual. They also become selectors and teammates. “I” would never have picked / “I” would have kicked / “I” would have passed. It’s a pity that “you” didn’t have a say Mr. African Grey, beach-ball-carrying, Roodepoort High, first-team water-boy of 1978. Maybe you should apply for the job, or maybe just get your butt off the couch without pulling a muscle?

When “we’re” up, it’s all about “us” and “we”. When “we” lose it’s about “they” and “them”. When “we” win its Heyneke, but when “we” lose its “Meyer” or “that K@K coach”.

The lesson – People attach themselves and personalize stuff. The more they want to, and need to belong & give meaning to their lives, the more they will relate and own – but they will abandon ship just as quickly and turn on the very people they once supported. Sound familiar?


Meritocracy is the only choice


Choosing people based on quotas, past results, dogma or cronyism will always end in failure. In my humble-uninformed-opinion, most of the black players that were chosen should never have been selected – With perhaps the exception of Siya Kolisi. Half of the white players chosen were too old (rugby is a young man’s game), out of form, and just plain not good enough.

If you do what you’ve always done, you are going to get what you’ve always got. Did we not learn that from John Smit (and co) from the last World Cup?

If your way of playing rugby won you a super 15 tournament years ago, it will probably not work years later in a different tournament and on the world stage. Oh, and for the record – I am all for transformation in rugby! Transform it from an “old boys club” to a meritocracy. Yes, if you are outstanding – you play – irrespective of the colour of your skin, your religion or who your favourite James Bond was. This, methinks, may be a scary thought because let’s face it – black people outnumber whites by about 15 or 22 to one. Imagine rugby a black sport!

The same should then also apply for soccer. A team chosen on merit alone – imagine! Imagine a government elected based on meritocracy. “Imagine all the people living…”

Lesson – Move with the times and the new thinking. Choose based on results and outstanding performances even if it is at the cost of the old guard. Did you notice how many penalties the “old heads” that were taken with (for their calm heads and experience) gave away?


Japan taught us that preparation before an event is vital. Executing a game plan and playing as if your life depended on it, will always get you results.


You can’t win a tennis match with a racket that has no strings. If you select the wrong team, it’s like going into a gun-fight with a stick. They were doomed from the start. Pick a winning team or strategy before you go on diet.


Cockiness before the fall

Remember the pre-flight send off at Monte Casino? The players strutting off the bus with their screw you, designer shades and coiffed, somewhat confused hairstyles, modeling the green jacket as if on a catwalk in Milan. One word – Japan. Winners are humble, champions more so!


All you can do is your best

And that is what I believe they did. In spite of all their self-imposed obstacles, they gave it their all. They did their best and that’s all anyone can ask for. To lose when you have given your all is to lose with dignity. They just sent the wrong team to do the job.

Having said that, the All Blacks nearly doubled the Australian’s score in the final, but only managed to beat South Africa by 2 points. An amazing feat for a team not fit for task. Typical South African spirit, grit and guts. Very well done men!


  • Meritocracy is the only way to go.
  • You find your true friends when days are dark.
  • You see the character of a person when their back is against the wall. Do they step-up or take everyone down with them?
  • Change, innovation and creativity are the only way to meet the future.
  • People are needy and fickle. There must be a money-making opportunity knowing this. Oh yes, it’s called religion.
  • Humility is the last outpost of class.
  • No matter what, remember the words from an old book I once read -“…. and it came to pass!”
  • No matter what you’re going through now, it will pass.
  • If times are dark, it will pass.
  • If times are slow, it will pass.
  • If times are good, it will pass.
  • No matter what – it will all be in the pas(s)t.
  • It’s the last few minutes in your 2015 season – so dig deep, it’s not how you start or what you have done, its how you are going to finish.


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