Business lessons we can all learn from the Springboks

By Katie Chodosh

business lessons from the Springboks
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The Springboks’ almighty triumph at the 2019 Rugby World Cup has given everyone in South Africa a massive boost. The joy was palpable – almost making it hard to get back to work.

The Boks’ world cup campaign wasn’t just successful – it was record-breaking and awe-inspiring, both on and off the pitch. So, what can we business owners and employees, sitting at our desks Monday to Friday, learn from coach Rassie Erasmus and the Bokke?

Learn from your mistakes

The Bokke had a rough start, losing to New Zealand 23-13 in their World Cup Pool B opener in Yokohama. But they didn’t let it get them down for too long. “That first defeat was a great lesson for us,” Erasmus said. “The whole week was terrible, the entire buildup, and that taught us a lot about how we should handle the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.”

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We all make mistakes at work. But don’t ignore them – instead, debrief as a team after something’s gone wrong. Analyse it, figure it out and use the lessons learnt.

Put it into perspective

When work is tough, it’s easy to feel like it’s the most important thing in the world. But it shouldn’t feel like life or death, so it’s worth taking time to put it into perspective.

Erasmus has said that, after the loss to the All Blacks, the team started talking about pressure. “In South Africa, pressure is not having a job. Pressure is one of your close relatives murdered. Because South Africa has a lot of problems, we started talking about how rugby shouldn’t be something that puts pressure on you. It should be something that creates hope. But you can’t create hope just by talking about it. Hope is not something you say in a beautiful tweet, hope is when you play well. Hope is when people watch the game on a Saturday, and they have a BBQ. They feel good about themselves, and no matter your political differences, or your belief differences, for those 80 minutes, you all agree. It is not our responsibility as players to create that hope, it is our privilege. The moment you see it that way, it becomes one hell of a privilege. That was the way we approached this whole World Cup campaign.” Gives you chills, doesn’t it?

Spread your bets across your team

For the last four games in the tournament, Erasmus split the reserve bench – the so-called ’bomb squad’ – between six forwards and two backs, rather than the conventional five and three. In layman’s terms, the team spread the physical load across more people. This became evident in the scrums, and the amount of energy the team still had at the end of the 80-minute game.

While you might not be getting into too many scrums at work (one would hope) the point of spreading the heavy load across the team still stands. If you’re pitching for new business or generating ideas for a client, get everyone involved and spread the workload – even if only two will be doing the pitching or dealing with the client. It’ll lighten the load across the team and make everyone feel a part of it.

Stay focused on the end-goal

According to The Guardian, as a young coach Erasmus noted: “It has been scientifically proven that at the end of a game more oxygen is being used to keep tired bodies moving than their brains thinking clearly. I believe that it is at this critical stage that a game is won and lost.”

This partly explains the logic behind the bomb squad lineup, but it also shows that Erasmus thinks about the end of the game right from the beginning. It can be easy to get caught up in the smaller tasks you need to do to reach your end goal, but you need to keep your overall objective in sight.

Believe in what you do 

All through the tournament Erasmus made his love for the game clear. He truly believes that rugby has the power to unite a nation – and he’s right. Ultimately, it’s much easier to do your job when you understand what you’re doing and why it makes a difference. It’s essential to have a purpose – if you don’t feel you have a purpose at work, try and figure it out. Speak to your superiors and try to map out the chain effect of what you do in your job. Once you truly believe that what you do is worthwhile, you’ll have much more interest in pursuing it.


Katie Chodosh is a Content Consultant at digital PR and SEO agency TopLine Comms and video production agency TopLine Film, based in Cape Town.


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