Bok legend Naas Botha, writing for SA Rugby magazine, believes if a South African team does not win the Super 14 in the next two years, World Cup success is unlikely to follow.
Watching the All Blacks parade around the British Isles during the end-of-year tour, written up as GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gift to rugby, got me thinking. In a year in which we narrowly beat them in Cape Town and came marginally short in Dunedin, why has it concluded with the Kiwis seemingly that step higher up the ladder. There is a vibe about the All Blacks that Jake WhiteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Springboks, for all their achievements, have yet to match. An aura if you will, and I believe it is a direct result of respective winning and losing cultures. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s forget about sentiment and examine the facts. In 10 years, we failed to win the Super 12. Each year, four out of the 12 teams were ours and thus through the most basic arithmetic we had a 1 in 3 chance every year. So much for that. We have won the Tri-Nations twice, once because of bonus points. We had two attempts at the Grand Slam, in 1998 and 2004, and both werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t great tours. We lost to the British Lions at home. OK enough, but I hope my point is clear. Despite WhiteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recent successes, South African rugby teams are still plagued by the losing culture that has dominated the last decade, and is reinforced every year in the Super 12. 2006 brings the dawn of the Super 14, and if our dismal fortunes continue, I believe we have no chance of winning the World Cup in 2007. What has disturbed me more than anything is on occasion this year I watched Super 12 sides lose and not seem to care. There have been some horrific capitulations, and the scars of defeats such as these do not just disappear. South African rugby players associate aeroplanes and ocean with defeat. The minute they look out their plane window and see blue sea, inhibition seems to overwhelm all the positive traits displayed in so many home games. New Zealand sides do not suffer from such a hindrance, and as such a team that we beat once and lost to narrowly in their own fortress appears unbeatable. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s confidence, bred from a decade of Super 12 and Tri-Nations gluttony. There is constant backbiting between the regions and our national side, but no matter what is said between the parties privately and publicly the real damage is being done on the pitch. If you embark on a tour with your regional side, and in your head are satisfied if one or two of your four games are won, of course that mentality is going to be carried over when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re picked for the Boks. The challenge before the regions, who have all begun preparations for next yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Super 14, is to create winning cultures. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s that simple. Bugger the branding and focus on winning because our players are too used to losing. If we do not win the Super 14 in the next two years, I would wager very heavily that World Cup triumph is unlikely to follow.
- Read Naas Botha’s column every month in SA Rugby magazine