|Volume 5, Week 23|
No podium finishes in the Tour De France, no Thorpedo at the FINA world
swimming championships, Henjak sent home in disgrace, defeat at Ellis
Park - again… thank heavens for the English capitulating as spectacular
as only they can in the Ashes to make this Australian sporting week
bearable. But then, who cares about the Aussies?
The Springbok team bounced back beautifully in the second leg of the Nelson Mandela challenge and recorded a very, very good victory indeed. It was action stations from the word go as they tore into their opposition with the fury of a Pan American tornado. Apparently, Madiba himself spoke to the team after their warm-up and if this is what a frail 87-year old man can inspire, hell - hopefully some technical assistant managed to record the great man’s words for posterity and replay it before every test!
However, this writer’s theory regarding Springbok victories extends beyond the inspiration of a world renowned figure or the exalted altitude of the high veldt. Somebody (he/she deserves plenty of accolades) in charge of organising pre-test entertainment sat down and performed a serious analysis as to what performer inspire both players and crowd in performing optimally. Yip, regular readers of this column will recognise this conjecture in a flash – Claire Johnson. The beautiful ex-Mango Groove star is worth at least 6 points to the Springboks, added Madiba’s 7 points and voila! there we have the score difference, 33-20… a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!
On a serious note, it was an impressive performance from a team with so many changes. A few players were judged during this match and yes, the Aussies were lethargic and woeful but you still have to go out and play to the very best of your ability to beat any side from Oz. The loose forwards were given an excellent platform to hassle the two senior statesmen, Larkham and Gregan – we won’t go as far and call them over the hill, look what the two 35 year old geezers did to England – but so much of Australia’s play hinges on Larkham. If he is on the front foot and dominating there is no doubt who the winner will be.
Behind a masterful performance from the tight five, Eddie Andrews is not yet 100% convincing and his tendency to be in the centres at exactly the wrong time is getting highly irritating, the backs prospered. Ricky January is playing better and better and as a (former) fierce critic of his play – this writer will shut up. The young man played very well. There is certainly a lot to improve like his kicking (non existent and therefore not a perfect partner for Jaco) and Craig Davidson eagerness (he needs to stop, think, breath, breath again then act – not the other way around!) but his service is crisp, his hassle factor high and defence improved. Outside him Andre Pretorius provided great ball for his backs – initially he decided to do some on his own but sense prevailed and he got the ball to JDV as soon as his hands could muster.
In the World Cup of ’95 there was a fax sent to the All Blacks, ‘remember guys, rugby is a team sport – all of you, get the ball as quickly as possible to Lomu’ and some of this logic applies to JDV (Jean De Villiers if you must…). The young centre, wing, utility but now inside centre extraordinaire put in a remarkable performance for somebody as under pressure as he was before this game. He created, he hassled, he tackled and he scored – all in a day’s work. Outside him, Jaque Fourie ran the perfect angles, provided the brawn and power blessed with a good dollop of skill to also score and in the process nullified the great Stirling Mortlock to the extent that he is benched for this coming weekend. High praise indeed coming from Eddie Jones.
The Springbok performance, as good as it was, was not perfect. The discipline, in the so called red zone (always thought that was the Russian sector in Berlin…) is worrying and in the end, playing with 14 or gasp less players against an on song Wallaby or double gasp All Black side will cost the match. The scrumming can improve but then with Jake all over the Wallabies illegal tactics in the press, it could explain why it was not totally convincing… that said, this old scrumhalf knows very little of the nefarious ways of the scrum.
The party though is over and unlike in the Peter Sellers version, the bugler can die and very quickly as well. Saturday at Loftus will probably see the true strength of the two teams and with both plying their ‘A’ game it can turn into a titanic struggle. Possession and defence is the name of the game and the selections of the two teams reflect both. Jake has gone with greater strength in the front row and even more speed in the back row. Fourie Du Preez returns to the backline and it is probably the best combination for the moment. Habana has some convincing to do – not in the try scoring department but in defence and workrate though in front of his adopted Super 12 home crowd he can make the difference.
The match will hopefully be as exciting as the previous and again, no predictions – it worked for once so why break a winning formula? But, somehow this week feels different. The Aussies have never played two weekends in a row against SA in SA (modern era) – they are way too smart not to learn, adapt and overcame – although Henjak, Toqiri and Sailor’s antics may dispute that. Methinks not. It will be close and kicking could be the difference and with Mortlock out, Giteau has no backup but Larkham. It is a problem as Giteau’s kicking’s been lamentable. In turn, Percy is the man – the villain of Loftus a few years ago can become Saturday’s hero.
Enjoy the test rugby and hopefully this match can bring as much out of the players as it can the supporters!
|Managing Change – the art of Balancing by Desmond Organ|
A Harvard Business Review Article of several years ago described the
process of managing change as the art of balancing and identified the
ten key components for successfully managing the transformation of an
enterprise. In many ways what Jake White faces as the national coach can
be described as the art of balancing and this week’s article will focus
on these ten key components and how Jake White measures up?
1. Forget Balance Create Tension
2. It is not a calling, it is a job
3. There is information in opposition
4. The informal network is as powerful as the formal chain of command
5. Change begins and ends with the business, not with change
6. Change is about people, people will surprise you
7. You cannot draft people into change, they have to enrol
8. No change Agent has succeeded by dying for his company
9. You cannot change the company without changing yourself
10. Even if the company does not change, you will
Forget Balance Create Tension
Jake White is the epitome of the above definition; he has challenged the establishment and demanded a more professional approach to the conditioning and development of players. No other coach has achieved the levels of representation that Jake White has and it is only with the emergence of other committed coaches that things are slowly beginning to change. On the negative side Jake has tended to use the media to mange his relationship with his employers and this is something that will not work in the future; as Mark Keohane has accurately stated he cannot threaten to quit again.
It is not a calling it is a Job
Jake White has always wanted to coach the Springboks and he has often spoken about this as the highlight of his career, nobody who has to deal with the structures and political infighting in the South African set up could take this job unless they really believed that it was more than money. Sadly some of his predecessors have also failed miserably, only to receive large handouts to which they were legally entitled.
There is information in opposition
Brian van Rooyen and the rest of the administration have always ruled through fear, the amount of infighting in the establishment tells the rest of the world that there is no hegemony in South African rugby; you watch your back or somebody will move against you for personal gains or maintain their position on the gravy train. Jake White must know by now who supports him and who does not and his ability to keep the power holders on his side is dependant upon his ability to meet transformation objectives and delivering results.
The informal network is as powerful as the formal chain of command
There are the formal structures and then there are the halls of deceit that are at the heart of the SARU. Andre Markgraaf has played nearly all of his cards in trying to entrench himself into a position of power, from the ANC Youth League to his cronies in the Provincial organisations he has tried to ensure that he remains at the heart of the game. Brian van Rooyen has also got skeletons in the closet and the recent resignation of member of the Audit Committee tells you that all is not well at Head Office. White definitely has the support of the players of colour in his team because of his commitment to transformation; this impresses the politicians and the Minister of Sport and has probably cemented his position as the coach of choice. Failure to deliver transformation can however lead to crisis and this was the case with the selection of the team to play England a year ago. Sadly the ANC Youth League views every aspect of life in South Africa as an area in which they can interfere and dictate.
Change begins and ends with the business, not with change
Changing the face of South African rugby is both a political and financial necessity, Rian Oberholzer knew this better than anybody else when he confronted the former coach on the eve of the World Cup in 2003. Jake White has committed himself to transformation because he has too, if only the same could be said of the coaches at the Provincial level. Failure to embrace the goals of transformation can only lead to further isolation and eventually removal from the job.
Change is about people, people will surprise you
The players of colour in Jakes team know that he supports them on the basis of their ability and that is why he has selected them. It is not surprising that Jake White has not moved several people from the starting line-up to the bench. He has committed to transformation and some times that means that some of the bench players might not be the second best in the position. Debating this point will get supporters nowhere, until structures exist where everybody gets similar opportunities there will be questions asked about his selections.
You cannot draft people into change, they have to enrol
Jake White has been given a mandate and despite frustrations and occasional outbursts he is delivering to that mandate. This is not just a compliance factor, he has committed to it. The same cannot be said of the Provincial coaches who do not have the same pressure to transform. SARU does not dictate to the Provinces and as this is South Africa we are talking about there is no way that people will commit without a lot of pressure.
No Change Agent has succeeded by dying for his company
Falling on your sword is not going to change a thing if you are involved in SA Rugby; people are so cynical and fickle that they simply move on to the next saga/soap opera that is being played out. Viljoen, Oberholzer, Straeuli and many others have not been missed by Joe Public.
You cannot change the company without changing yourself
Jake White has not succeeded in getting the support of his Provincial coaches and this is because the Unions are not being expected to fully support the transformation objectives at SARU. In reality this is not surprising because SARU is hardly a copybook of corporate governance and has more skeletons in the closet than just about any of the Provincial administrations. Many coaches before Jake have embarked on transformation only to back out when the pressure is applied. Jake believes in what he is doing and has the courage to say so; as long as the results go his way he will be bale to stand tall.
Even if the company does not change you will
Positive or negative this is the face of rugby in South Africa.
There can be no doubt that the task of coaching the Springboks is the ultimate challenge and there would be few takers for the position if we recruited outside the borders of the Republic of South Africa.
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Today's announcement is a special one for me. I said 18 months ago that
there are black playrs who are good enough to play for south africa. To
pick a squad to play against the wallabies containing 9 players makes me
feel very good. There might be times, though, when I pick 3 black
players. I don't want to be asked when i have one black player finishing
the Test, because i am preparing a squad for the world cup and that is
my primary concern. Jake White after
his team selection for last Saturday.
There are certain parameters in which a player has to work and he can only do so much. I have said often before that I believe what is happening off the field (in terms of administration and politics) has a massive impact on how the players perform. This is why we struggle to become consistent. We have flashes where everything goes well, but then it all collapses again. Until we sort out our problems off the field we are going to struggle to be consistently successful. Corne Krige
We thought we were really well prepared - everything we did in the lead-up to the game was good, the warm-up was pretty sharp and then we get on the field and we are on the back foot. It's just one of those mysteries. Eddie Jones
It was a huge change. If these two countries had been race horses, I would have asked the stewards to investigate why there had been such a huge shift. Bob Dwyer
We do not have curfews, but we do have team standards, and we feel these team standards have been breached. Phil Thomson, Wallaby Team Manager on the discipline hearing of several Wallaby players.
The scrum as far as I'm concerned is not being properly refereed and not being managed within the laws, so I'm going to keep talking about it until someone listens. Jake White
Generally speaking, New Zealanders are pretty arrogant about their feelings about the All Blacks and think they're the best team in the world, that's not the case, especially since the
game has gone professional. Graham Henry
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