News / Opinion / Columns

Jon Swift
2 minute read
9 Sep 2017
5:30 am

Boks have a lesson to pass on

Jon Swift

Why our national soccer and cricket teams have, without putting too fine a point on it, been disappointing.

There is an increasingly obvious need for Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter to draw some lessons from the Springboks and a compelling argument for new Proteas coach Ottis Gibson to consult with the national rugby team.

From the outside looking in, it becomes increasingly evident that for our pampered soccer and cricket stars, things have become too easy in this country. We are talking about team sports.

Not even the harshest of critics can point fingers at our individual performers where South African athletes, swimmers and golfers have been outstanding and Kevin Anderson has made a remarkable comeback on the tennis court.

But our national soccer and cricket teams have, without putting too fine a point on it, been disappointing. The premise behind team success is that of joint participation rather than what has at times looked like an under-performing mutual admiration society.

Team members dictate where and when they will play and seemingly put more emphasis on individual performance than the common good. In sharp contrast, even though they might not win the Rugby Championship this time round, has been the stunning renaissance of Springbok rugby from the bedraggled bunch of losers who turned out last season.

Working off the blueprint of playing for one another promoted by former Lions coach Johan Ackermann and carried through to the Test arena by the inspirational captaincy of Warren Whiteley – an organisational ethic continued by stand-in skipper Eben Etzebeth – the Boks have bloomed anew, rekindling the captaincies of Francois Pienaar and John Smit, both World Cup winners.

And, more importantly, they look headed back towards regaining the respect of the past. In recalling history, it is entirely apposite to remember that when Bafana won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996, beating Tunisia 2-0 in the final, Neil Tovey did what the Boks are currently doing, and drew the team close together and, in doing so, forged a winning formula.

In a different, more forceful manner, Proteas captain Graeme Smith used his sometimes abrasive personality to drag the national cricket side back to the top of the Test cricket rankings.

The Boks have a potent lesson to pass on.

Jon Swift

Jon Swift