What the Springbok Mindset Can Teach Us

3rd November 2023
Read time: 4 mins 46 secs

The Rugby World Cup was an emotional rollercoaster.

While the Springboks won the trophy, they also won hearts.

The story of South Africa Rugby is one that is built on more than just what happens on the field.

It’s an approach. A way of life. A mindset.

As an England fan I an take solace in losing to them in the semi-final by knowing we lost to (arguably) a team of a generation.

I’m not a springbok. But this article is purely my own interpretation of what I see the mindset of the team being able to teach us through watching studying their interviews and documentaries.

Let’s get into it…

Be comfortable doing things differently

The springboks made the decision to do something in rugby that has never been done before – a 7-1 split on the bench.

For those of you that may what this is (don’t worry, I didn’t either to begin with), it means that they have 7 forwards, and 1 back on the bench.

It means that South Africa can bring on their infamous ‘Bomb Squad’ of physical, attacking forwards.

However the trade off (and huge gamble) is that they one have one man on the bench in position as a back.

Leaving them vulnerable if, for example, 2 backs get injured during a game and need replacing.

This choice gained a ton of criticism.

However the team stuck by it and stayed true to their belief that this is the way they want to do things, even in the face of others ridiculing it.

They are also creative.

In 2019, they created ‘The Move’ (a unique line out which resulted in a scoring opportunity), something that had never been seen before and something considered ‘out of the box’ thinking.

A large part of this springbok team mindset seems to be is one of embracing doing things differently, having strength in what feels authentic to you, regardless of what others might say.

Strength in diversity

You’d be hard pressed to find a squad of players that have all come from such a vast range of upbringings. From growing up in huge deprivation, to private school education.

Yet through this diversity comes strength.

Being able to see the world from a wide range of perspectives, give us new ways of solving problems.

You don’t want to have all the same thinkers in the room to solve a problem.

The same goes for you as an individual. Opening up your mind to new ways of doing things, not being suppressed to only one way of thinking or doing.

There are many paths to the same goal. It’s in knowing that no one path is the way to go.

Whether you’re a part of a team or an individual. Looking to solve a problem or achieve something, can be achieved through different perspectives.

Kolisi again is seen here showing what it means.

 

Human first

In the final press conference of the tournament, captain Siya Kolisi signed off the the press conference with a small speech to Head Coach Jacque saying how grateful he is of treating him and everyone in the team as people first not just an athlete.

“You speak to me as a person, as a husband, as a son”

 

This is also exemplified by a clip from Chasing the Sun of Rassie Erasmus emotionally telling the story of Makazole Mapimpi.

I’ll let you watch the video below with a warning that this one got me, so grab a tissue.

These stories aside, it reminds us that the performers that we see are also people too.

Being an athlete is only a part of the story, something that they do. It’s not who they are.

It’s a reminder to focus on the human first, athlete second.

Measure by the size of heart

The last 3 games of the tournament for South Africa were won by a single point. 1 point.

These tight games had me (and millions of others) on the edge of my seat.

To hold off attacks from other teams in the dying moments of a game, and to do it without faltering.

That take courage, bravery and resilience in not giving up until the very end. It takes heart, not just skill.

As winger Cheslin Kolbe, brilliantly puts: “It doesn’t matter in the size, the height, and the weight, it’s all about the heart and the mind”.

These stories aside, it reminds us that the performers that we see are also people too.

Being an athlete is only a part of the story, something that they do. It’s not who they are.

It’s a reminder to focus on the human first, athlete second.

Measure by the size of heart

The last 3 games of the tournament for South Africa were won by a single point. 1 point.

These tight games had me (and millions of others) on the edge of my seat.

To hold off attacks from other teams in the dying moments of a game, and to do it without faltering.

That take courage, bravery and resilience in not giving up until the very end. It takes heart, not just skill.

As winger Cheslin Kolbe, brilliantly puts: “It doesn’t matter in the size, the height, and the weight, it’s all about the heart and the mind”.

Dedication to something greater

The why of the springboks is for more than just points on the scoreboard.

They are connected to something bigger than themselves.

For South Africa.

But what they have cleverly done is show the entirety of South Africa this too.

From interviews to moments in game.

They included in their promotion through sponsors inspiring stories of why they were playing.

They used their sponsors to connect the purpose of the team to the people. Here’s how they did it through DSTV adverts branded For South Africa:

It humanised the players, connecting them to the people of South Africa.

It spoke to the people of South Africa and gave motivation for something greater than an individuals need to succeed.

This is something that the All Blacks (their opponents in the final) have done so well for years. Author and podcast guest, James Kerr brilliantly describes this in his book Legacy how they used sponsors and the media to spread the culture and message to a wider audience. So that everyone could know, and feel what it meant to be an All Black.

The Springboks have done that too.

They connect their personal goals to a higher collective purpose. The success on the field comes after a culture off the field.

When we connect to a higher purpose and dedicate ourselves to something greater than our own self, when we move from ‘Me’ to ‘We’, we not only motivate ourselves but we inspire others in the process.

And in the effort towards creating our own legacy we are indeed, as South Africa’s slogan suggests; Stronger Together.

Whenever you're ready, there is a couple of ways I can help you:

MindStrong Sport App – Mental Skills Training for Athletes

Personal Mindset Coaching - Contact for more

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