Possibly the most debated topic on social media, in the newspapers and around braais is whether John Smit should be in the Springbok team and, most importantly, act as captain at the same time. Tom Dawson-Squibb, of Head Start Sport, gives his two cents' worth on the John Smit conundrum.
Some are of the opinion that he should have retired after the B&I Lions tour in 2009 (even Jake White joined this group) and some feel that he should be measured purely on playing ability - with that as the criteria he sits at about third choice in the country. Others feel he should remain Springbok Rugby World Cup captain.
There are people reading this article right now that are firmly in one of these camps and do not intend budging for whatever reason, but here are a few thoughts anyway.
Look back at World Cups past and you may remember names, Kirk, Farr-Jones, Pienaar, Eales, Johnson and Smit - rugby greats in their own rights. All exceptional rugby players but more than that all exceptional people and all World Cup-winning captains. The truth is, each of these victorious sides was led by an experienced captain that commanded massive amounts of respect from his team. In fact, the names of the captains of these sides roll off the tongue far quicker than the men who coached these sides to victory.
So we look at history and it tells us that a team is unlikely to win a World Cup without a world-class leader. And as I write this on the birthday of one of the world's most famous leaders it brings to mind just how important leadership is in successful teams, companies and organisations.
In conversation with a senior Springbok just last week, he told me that John Smit was one of the most exceptional people he knows and unrivalled as a captain by a long shot and that this view was shared by the team. For whatever failings (some may even be perceived) he has as a player, this man surely needs to be there to lead this side should we have any chance of winning the competition?
Leadership is about many things, it is about motivating but also about caring, it is about setting an example but also about saying the right thing at the right time, it is about bringing a team together but also about knowing how to get the best out of each individual. Leadership is inherently about effecting positive influence on your followers in such a way that enables them to perform. The question one needs to ask, is who else in the current Bok side would be able to do all of this?
The current Bok set-up is an interesting one, there is a remarkably large management staff, there is a head coach who seems to struggle in the communication category but is a brilliant man-manager and there are many different ideas from all the different coaches who have not necessarily all worked together that much.
More than that, it is no secret that provincialism is big in South Africa and that for eight months of the year guys from different provinces go all out to beat each other and then have to play as a team in short competitions such as the Tri-Nations and the Rugby World Cup.
This means the ability of leadership to mould a team, to be able to understand the different characters and to break down any cliques becomes paramount to the team's success. Bulls, Stormers and Sharks jerseys need to be quickly put in the cupboard, out of sight, and Springbok culture needs to be the only one that exists within the players. I know that the Springbok jersey carries enormous weight in the players' heads and hearts and therefore bonds them together nicely, but without expert leadership of people, no jersey will be able to mould players together that fast.
So here we sit just two months out from the World Cup and we will continue to debate this issue over and over again. The fact remains, however, that John Smit's leadership is highly thought of in Bok circles, this symbolised by them sending him on this Tri-Nations away leg, and that it is unlikely to change. This was a good call, as the credibility of the man must remain in tact by playing him as much as possible and backing his as first choice.
Another fact is that there is a solid leadership core in the Bok side, but no one with as much natural leadership ability to hold together what is a difficult ship to steer, as John Smit.
He has been chosen as captain, and rightly so because first of all it is too late to make a change now and, secondly, there is no one else in his class as a leader. Captaining a Springbok side is no easy task however experienced these players may be and for that reason the best leader must be picked first and the rest second as that is what winning sides do.
In conclusion, leave out John Smit at the country's peril, he must start, he must captain and he must be allowed to do his job with the whole team and management staff's support.
PS. Well done to Samoa! Underdogs who believe they can cause an upset and always arrive with massive motivation and a well thought-out plan will always have a chance. The question is, will they be able to sustain that come World Cup time?
* Tom and Rowan Belchers run a company called Head Start Sport which focuses on the mental side of sport. They have worked with the Stormers, WP and UCT - as well as Rondebosch Boys' High School and Paarl Boys' High School.
Visit www.headstartsport.co.za to find out more, or follow them on Twitter; @thesportingmind
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