SA lags be­hind All Blacks’ ‘team cul­ture’

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xa­ban­isa sports@city­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Simx­a­ban­isa

The All Blacks’ pres­ence in the coun­try has brought into sharp fo­cus the lat­est catch-phrase grip­ping South African cricket and rugby – “team cul­ture”.

Over the past cou­ple of sea­sons, South African sports fans have had to man­fully wrap their heads around the fact that the cul­ture in ques­tion is nei­ther the man­i­fes­ta­tion of hu­man in­tel­lec­tual achieve­ment nor the cul­ti­va­tion of cells.

Ac­cord­ing to Spring­bok psy­chol­o­gist Pi­eter Kruger, team cul­ture is “very clear ex­pec­ta­tions and val­ues that the team stand for, on and off the field ... one of the main build­ing blocks in a high­per­for­mance en­vi­ron­ment”.

“It gives you the foun­da­tion to work from and will drive the stan­dards of what peo­ple do and how they do it.”

Judg­ing by what the Proteas and the Spring­boks have told us, team cul­ture is a thing that takes a whole week in a camp to build.

The crick­eters were first to tell us about their cul­ture camp last year, which was fol­lowed by the glo­ri­ous run that hit a brick wall at the ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy in June.

Now we have the Boks, who haven’t had one press con­fer­ence this year with­out men­tion­ing the C-word.

This week, the All Blacks – who, thanks to James Kerr’s book Legacy, are the kings of team cul­ture – rolled into town with hi­lar­i­ous re­sults on so­cial me­dia. South African fans ripped them to shreds for the earnest over­achiever’s code that con­sti­tutes their team cul­ture.

The two most im­por­tant things high­lighted in Legacy – ba­si­cally a book about team cul­ture’s con­tri­bu­tion to their sta­tus as the great­est team to play the game – are how se­nior play­ers sweep the chang­ing room, and the “no d**kheads” rule.

The point is to high­light the hu­mil­ity of play­ers who are ba­si­cally the Mes­sis and Ron­al­dos of rugby.

And, on cue, they swept into Cape Town and gave a dis­play of this by be­ing filmed form­ing a long queue to help the bag­gage master un­load the tons of lug­gage from the team bus.

The All Blacks’ clean­ing up af­ter them­selves has been copied all over the world, with Ire­land flanker CJ Stander’s wife re­cently post­ing a video of him sup­pos­edly sweep­ing a dress­ing room, although he could have been do­ing house­hold chores.

I’m re­li­ably told that the Boks also pick up their own jock­straps, but with coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee’s cur­rent de­fen­sive mood and strained me­dia re­la­tions, the photo ops of the mo­men­tous events aren’t as read­ily avail­able.

Each time Steve Hansen’s troops em­bark on their pub­lic out­breaks of hu­mil­ity, there’s no short­age of swoon­ing fans, who this week in­cluded lo­cals who are so vested in all things All Blacks, they sang the New Zealand an­them to wel­come the team at Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Their Spring­bok-sup­port­ing coun­ter­parts (if sup­port is the right word) – miffed with their team los­ing both on and off the field to their sup­posed old­est ad­ver­saries – hit back by won­der­ing out loud on so­cial me­dia why there were al­ways cam­eras when the visi­tors’ ran­dom acts of hu­mil­ity took place.

This has de­gen­er­ated into snarky Tweets like: “Ap­par­ently they all brushed their teeth this morn­ing – amaz­ing team ethic.” Un­for­tu­nately, this is what the Spring­boks’ dwin­dling for­tunes have re­duced us to – if you can’t beat them, mock them.

This may be a bit close to the bone, if not a cau­tion­ary tale about buy­ing into team cul­ture whole­sale, but if we were look­ing to dim the halo above the All Blacks, we might have pointed out that the “no d**kheads” rule only ap­plies to the team and not the play­ers’ real lives.

It’s not for me to judge, but I imag­ine Aaron Smith and Jerome Kaino’s wives may have taken be­ing cheated on as a d**k move, if you’ll par­don the pun.

The Boks have also en­deav­oured to put to­gether a team cul­ture to ri­val the All Blacks’ – but I keep hear­ing that some of team man­age­ment are still trip­ping over the ac­cept­abil­ity of El­ton Jan­tjies and Lionel Mapoe’s wide-brimmed gangsta rap­per caps.

Clearly, we’ve got a long way to go.

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