Watching the Proteas tumble out of another ICC event shortly after a RWC campaign where the Springboks lost to Japan – I couldn’t help but wonder if SA sport’s biggest problem is not talent, or even coaches – it’s our attitude.
In my opinion – SA is one of the most naturally talented nations in the world when it comes to sport. Our sportsman have etched their names on exclusive lists across many many sports; tennis, athletics, swimming, cricket, soccer, rugby, and others.
And yet when it comes to big tournaments – particularly in terms of the latter three codes – we seem to enter as potential champs yet fall out as chumps.
Now I am not saying this has always been the case but watching the Windies pull a rabbit out of the hat during a must-win match up against the Proteas – by bowling Chris Gayle – I felt like we were caught with our pants down. And it’s been happening heaps lately. The same thing happened when the Springboks took on Japan in game-one of the RWC. We went into the game thinking that there was no ways that Japan could beat us and even though we ALL knew that they were going to use ‘chop tackles’ and attack us in the 9 and 10 channel – we were still outfoxed by one the best tacticians in the rugby world – Eddie Jones.
There is an old saying that says “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” and I think it perfectly sums up our approach to sport.
Why do we bowl length balls in the final overs of a must-win match, against some of the best boundary hitters in the world – when all other teams are clearly bowling Yorkers and slower balls? For the very same reason that we play the tired old kick and chase game against some of the best counter attacking teams around, like the All Blacks.
We roll in with our big forwards, our quick bowlers and play “our game”. Then when our opposition match us – we insist that “we are on the right track” and “we back our structures” before eventually coming unstuck.
The problem with this attitude is that it is predictable and does not consider the nuances of the pressure situations that present themselves in professional sport – particularly at big tournaments.
We need to learn how to adapt our tactics to the situation. We need to not coach the crap out of our players and allow them to play the situation. We also need to learn how to pull rabbits out of the hat at critical times and knock the opposition back for enough time to score the victory. I fear until we learn to make this critical pivot – we’ll never have a trophy cabinet that properly represents the talent on the display on our sporting fields.
What’s your thoughts? Is there something I am missing? Do you agree? Either way, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch via the comments section at the bottom or via a tweet @leftbacks.