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International coaching expert says Boks can bounce back
- Updated: September 22, 2015
By Mark Etheridge
Leading international coaching guru, administrator and SASCOC consultant, Frank Dick says it’s not game over for the Springbok rugby team, despite their crushing World Cup first round defeat to minnows Japan in England at the weekend.
The Springboks lost 34-32 to Japan and as a tsunami of public grief and anger at the humiliating defeat washed over South African sports fans, the veteran British expert came up with a list of five ‘lessons’ to be learnt by the loss.
Dick, who coached Olympic decathlon champion Daley Thompson, is currently President of the European Athletics Coaches Association as well as being a member of the IAAF Coaches Commission and Chair and an architect of the IAAF Academy.
He returns to South Africa this weekend on yet another working visit during which he will consult with the country’s top coaches and athletes ahead of next year’s Rio Olympics and Paralympics.
Here are Dicks’ words of sporting wisdom:
Lesson One – It’s never over ’til it’s over
‘Losing a try in the first minute is not what you want but you have 79 minutes to play for the win. Losing the first game in a World Cup is not the end of the world. It is the start of the campaign and the games ahead will determine who will lift the Cup.
‘Sometimes we need a tough lesson to remind us why we hate losing and who we must be if we are to persistently win.’
Lesson Two – Never make assumptions
‘One of the reasons we love sport is because outcomes in terms of result are not predictable. If they were, we would put the bookies out of business! Of course we can make educated guesses that suggest this or that expectation but we can never be 100%. Or what is the point of the contest? So we have top seeds sent packing by much lower ranked players in the first week of Wimbledon. Or we have “Giant Killers” from lower leagues toppling Premier League Teams in the FA Cup.
‘Why? The assumed “Favourites” can find themselves intuitively feeling they just have to do “enough”. We have all done that sometime. The “Underdog” goes beyond the expected as if it is their final!
Lesson Three – Get your attitude right
‘While we cannot always choose the circumstances and conditions in our battlefields, we can always choose our attitude.
‘Choose to respect your opposition, but never fear them. Perhaps Japan’s rugby history did South Africa no favours here.
‘As a coach I look more at what athletes’ eyes and facial expression are saying no matter what the scoreboard says.
‘In the game it seemed that with each of the Springboks’ second half tries there was an immediate expression on faces of “order has been restored’! It was almost a sigh of relief.
‘But even at such points, their was not a hint of fear in the Cherry Blossoms ‘ eyes or faces.
‘On the other hand, I think the only time it appeared that the Springboks knew fear was in the final minutes when Japan declined the penalties. In doing so they were stating “We are here to fight for the win; we are not here to settle for survival.” That’s what I call attitude.
‘And that attitude is normally central to Springboks character. We must make “normally” become “always”.’
Lesson Four – Know your enemy
‘TV commentators in UK were suggesting that Japan would run out of gas given the number of tackles they were making compared with South Africa.
‘In my opinion, Eddie Jones is one of the finest coaches in Sport. His strategic brain is quite exceptional . It is inconceivable that he would not have anticipated the high volume of hits his players would have to make and still be able to be technically sharp, fast, agile, resilient and strong despite cumulative fatigue.
‘So, Eddie has on his staff, a world leading coach on strength and conditioning, John Pryor. What a fantastic job he has done.
‘There was no chance that Japan were going to run out of gas, physically, mentally or emotionally!’
Lesson Five – Learn fast and move on
‘I find the following quote particularly pertinent at this point in time: ”Probably the only sustainable competitive advantage we have, is the ability to learn faster than the opposition”, from Dutch business expert and public speaker, Arie de Geus.
‘This great rugby nation has not raised the Webb Ellis Trophy twice by being slow to learn, adapt, adjust and raise their game to be better by being different.
‘That will never change.’
Dick concluded with one more final thought for the Springboks to consider. ‘I remember Italy scraping through by the skin of their teeth to advance from the group stage of football’s World Cup before going on to win the trophy. As I said, this is only the start of the campaign. It’s time to learn the lessons even faster.’