Dear Heyneke and Team
As a leadership advisor, expert and supporter of you and the Springboks, I have been wracking my brain about why the All Blacks win time and time again? Why are they dominating world rugby like no other team has ever managed to do? How do they simply find a way to win, against the odds, on another team’s home ground, even when the home team plays brilliantly for most of a match?
You probably have the exact answer and rugby commentators may debate many reasons that would make sense. But I think we miss a very important piece of the puzzle here; and we miss a crucial and obvious correlation, which is the ultimate reason why they are in a league of their own. Our Springbok team will never dethrone them, certainly not for any significant period of time, unless they somehow find a way to neutralize this or do what they do, but better.
At the highest level in any sport the differentiating factor lies at a psychological level. Yes, tactics, skills, fitness and other factors are important, but at an international or global level in professional sport it is ‘much of a muchness’ as they say. What gives a team the edge is their self-belief and ability to get themselves, their minds, their attitude “in the zone”, on the day of the game. It is ultimately a thing of psychology.
The correlation is this: The All Blacks dominate and they happen to be the team with a “Haka”! Do we not see it? The entire world of rugby has allowed this team to do their Haka before any match. It is the most amazing sporting phenomena in the history of sport.
What does the Haka do? It allows them to immediately take the psychological dominant place on the field; to regulate or shift their own psychological level into “the zone”, as well as push their opponent’s belief level a notch down, and even move the audiences belief levels in their favour – ever so slightly. With the Haka they stamp their psychological and emotional authority and power on the game. Surprisingly – and strangely – they tell the entire world to wait for and watch them do a ritual that lifts their motivation levels to start the game as the psychological dictators – and we all allow them to do this.
The words confirm this: “Let me go back to my first gasp of breath. Let my life force return to the earth. It is New Zealand that thunders now. And it is my time! It is my moment! The passion ignites! This defines us as the All Blacks. And it is my time! It is my moment! The anticipation explodes! Feel the power. Our dominance rises. Our supremacy emerges. To be placed on high. Silver fern! All Blacks! Silver fern! All Blacks! aue hi!
The Haka is quite possibly the greatest “trick” – though authentic – in the history of any sport. It is like watching them take some form of illegal psychological enhancement drug in public, just in an interesting way, and letting them get away with it.
If any team is ever going to match or beat the All Blacks at their own psychological game they will have to display innovative courage by breaking the All Black rhythm; by changing or adding to the status quo in an assertive but not arrogant or defensive way; in a positive manner that lifts them into their psychological zone of believing they can win. One might be tempted to think they should suddenly start circling the All Blacks as they do the Haka and while doing this slowly move closer, symbolically illustrating their dominance over them. But such an approach would be defensive in its nature…I think.
Or, there is a case for lobbying against the Haka being performed before the matches; that they are welcome to do it in their change rooms before the match. But then this approach has a negative connotation to it.
The best way would be for a team to make the All Blacks wait following the Haka, while they themselves perform some authentic ritual or action that truly inspires them and perhaps even mesmerizes the world; or start their action or ritual in the middle of the All Black performance, facing them and then conclude after them so that they have to do some of the watching. This will equalise the psychological playing field.
If the Springboks can be creative and find this key they could very well change the history of rugby and swing the momentum their way. If another team finds this answer they may break the All Black rhythm but still lose against them, because they will not have the passion, skill, talent, tactics or strength to take over that dominant number one position. The Springboks must do this! They are the only team that can dethrone the All Blacks permanently.
In the end it is a matter of psychology, belief and attitude!
I wish you well! We wish you well and stand behind you!
Do you feel that others are putting a psychological and emotional authority and power on yourself or your team? Email Adriaan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.