The South African rugby team have been playing outstanding rugby this season.
The performance of the South African rugby team on the field that played against New Zealand and the performance of their coach, Mr Pieter de Villiers in the way that he presents himself when he is on stage in the public arena (via the media), are worlds apart. I cringe when I listen to the coach speak. I know this seems judgmental, but you need to listen to what he says to understand my feeling. Amongst other things, he is a master at generalisations (I decided to keep this comment on a general level so as not to ‘nit-pick’ any specifics). Having said this, I know that if I was a member of the team, I would be embarrassed for him to be the ‘voice’ of my team.
A team usually mirrors the personality and beliefs of the leadership that is guiding it. But not this South African rugby team. They seem to have transcended the standards and quality in action of their coach. So what would the reason be for this anomaly?
This team has come a long way. The players have a history together that binds them. The core of this team was brought together over 5 years ago by the previous coach, Jake White. At this moment in time, Pieter de Villiers is reaping the rewards of the ‘harvesting phase’ of a team’s life cycle. He is harvesting all of the fruits of ‘the seed phase’ that was planted many years ago. Some coaches are lucky to inherit a team in its most productive phase.
Besides playing ability, this team is also blessed to have a number of experienced players that have remarkable leadership skills. In the scrum, the captain John Smit (who now holds the record for the most capped captain in test rugby), is supported by the likes of Victor Matfield, Juan Smith and Bakkies Botha. Matfield, Smith and Jean de Villiers are captains of their respective Super 14 provincial franchise teams. In the back-line, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie and Brian Habana are all seasoned campaigners who like to take an proactive role on the field. They are not afraid to take on responsibility and back this up with exceptional individual performances match after match. These experienced leaders are complemented by exciting, creative, passionate youngsters like Pieterson, Steyn, du Plessis and Brussouw.
This team is settled (physically, mentally and emotionally). It is a once in a life time team. It is producing wonderful fruits. The most important decision that the coach has made is not to tamper with the combinations that exist in the unit. But maybe I am giving him too much credit for this. This team actually picks itself. No selectors and coaches are necessary. For the time being, a strictly ‘no interference’ needs to be applied to the team on all levels.