Boks prove that SA Inc can also win against the odds
Failure may start off as a shortcoming, or even a mistake. Without change, though, failure soon becomes a habit
I am, win or lose, a serious Springbok supporter. There is just something about a rugby Test that stirs the national pride we all have within us, no matter what. Whenever I see the green and gold I feel a sense of association, of belonging. I know nothing about kickboxing, but I recently saw three of our Springbok team at the airport, walking briskly along, and my pace automatically quickened to catch up, to be closer to those tracksuits.
Sport has played a huge role in bringing us together, as the peoples of SA. Who will ever forget Nelson Mandela stepping onto that rugby field wearing a No 6 rugby jersey, crossing the divide, testimony to the unity he sought for us all.
I was there, and we beat the All Blacks on that day as well, and we’ll beat them again, of course we will. The reason we won on Saturday, against the world’s best, is as much because we wanted to win, as it is that we refused to lose.
The game in 1995 was a huge deal, winning the World Cup. Saturday’s game was much less significant, but just as important to win. The tense and try-less final at Ellis Park in 1995 was a very different game to the 11-try feast we were served up in Wellington on Saturday, but there were many similarities. Both games went down to the wire. Both games required only one (three-point) score to change the result, and both games went beyond full-time to determine the winner.
My son’s Grade 6B hockey match in Centurion started at the same time as the rugby. Thanks to modern technology I was able to watch the Springboks on my phone and my son’s match on the field. It turned out to be a great morning – winning the hockey 4-2 and the rugby 36-34, have a nice day!
The Springboks were anything but favourites. You could have got 30-to-one odds backing the Springboks to win, and the consensus was that we’d lose by a margin of 20 or more if both sides played to current form.
So why did we win? I know we had to (and that helps). We came back from an initial 12-point deficit to lead by 19 at some stage. Against anyone that takes some doing, but against the All Blacks we achieved the impossible. Hell, those guys must have dug deep. In a faraway land, where they were expected to fail, they succeeded.
We succeeded not only because we played as a team and we know we can win. Success is infectious, and the odds of winning against the very same teams to which we have just lost (Argentina and Australia) have changed dramatically with this one win, this proof.
Failure is also infectious. Failure may start off as a shortcoming, or even a mistake. Without purposeful change, though, failure soon becomes a habit. Once a habit for long enough, failure becomes a refuge. A place to hide, safely among the other failures, a dreadful hole which can be easier to live in than to fight your way out of.
You’ll easily find company in such a hole. Failures, be they individuals, teams, organisations, or even countries, seek solace in the company of other failures. At first success seems elusive and it’s easier to give up than to try, but eventually success becomes the enemy, despised by those who’ve succumbed, as they watch others who refuse to accept a lesser lot, stand up.
Dragging an organisation out of an accepted failed state is difficult. It requires leadership and example. It’s hard enough to face a current that seems capable and determined to break you (as the Springboks did in the last few minutes, defending our line), but to do so without breaking the rules (and giving away that fatal penalty) is doubly difficult. But we did it.
In business, as in sport, it is endurance against the odds that prevails, that creates the brand, that entitles you to charge a premium.
Winning companies learn from their mistakes and adapt to changing circumstances. They defend market share and correct their strategic compasses, to stay the course, on course.
Our economy, our country, is facing headwinds. We will surely be tested, but if we face these currents with determined common purpose, without taking any shortcuts or breaking any rules, then I am convinced that SA will win too, against the odds.