What defines greatness?

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 6 Sep 2009 at 11:49

The difference between good and great has got very little to do with skill and talent at test level.

The difference between good and great has got very little to do with skill and talent at test level.

Last week someone asked me whether I agree with the common sentiment in the media of late of whether this current Springbok side was the greatest one in history.

Well firstly I believe it is silly to compare this team with teams in the 1950’s, 30’s or 70’s as the game has changed so much, but perhaps there was a case of comparing them to Springbok teams since 1992 when we came back from isolation…

It was a tough question, because I want this team to be the best of all time or the last 20 years, and in recent times they make it difficult for you not to think they just might be, but I was also very aware of the fact that as time goes by, memories fade and if we have to go and study the winning World Cup team of 1995, or Mallet’s charges of 1997/98 one would realize that they were very special teams, with some very special players and moments in their own right and time.

But I was still stuck with the question, was this team the best we had?

Before the Tri-Nations started I said this team is on the brink of greatness, and era very seldom seen in rugby and one that comes around once or twice in a fan’s lifetime.

A couple of things would determine whether this team is truly great, or just very good.

Greatness is also a matter of subjective perception. For instance is a team that wins trophy after trophy great? Even thought they lose the odd match in-between?

Is a team great when they win World Cup’s?

Or is a team great when they are recognized as the number 1 team in the world, by consistently beating the best or top 5 teams on the ranking list?

Personally I would go for the last option, which was also my point when we won the World Cup and became the number 1 team in world rugby following that victory and I said it is not a true reflection of the standings in power in world rugby at the time.

Today we are the number 1 ranked team in the world (and still world champions by the way) because we beat the top two sides in world rugby twice. I also have little doubt we will remain the top team in world rugby following our traditional end of year tour and it would be a deserving title and honour, unlike 2007.

But does that make this team great, or the greatest?

I could not avoid the question, but I also could not pin it down on any one thing why I thought this team was exceptionally good, but not great. Yesterday’s loss also did not give me any answers really, because we have all known and discussed possible weak areas in this team so it was or is not the definitive reason why I believed this team was good but not (yet) great.

I then read this week how Springbok legend Tiaan Strauss handed over the jersey’s to the team for their match in Brisbane, and Tiaan hit the nail on the head and pinpointed the elusive ingredient which I could not come up with why I believe this team is good, but not great.

Tiaan in a speech to the players mentioned that great teams were defined by the character in that team. A character which saw the All Blacks dominate world rugby in the last 20 years where no matter what the touring schedule, no matter what the injuries, no matter who the coach or game plan, losing is simply not an option for them. It was ingrained in that team’s character, and that is what is missing from our Springbok team still in my view.

We are sitting as some suggest in a golden age in Springbok rugby, many factors prove this. We have immensely experienced, skillful and talented players, that much is clear. But over and above having the talent and the skill, this team needs the character to show and prove, they are indeed the greatest Springbok team in history.


  • Is that it?? :shock:

  • Comment 1, posted at 06.09.09 13:22:03 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • @wpw (Comment 1) :


    This new upgraded word press pisses me off!!!

    There you go!

  • Comment 2, posted at 06.09.09 13:26:26 by Morné Reply
    MornéTeam captain
  • nice one :razz:
    i agree that to be really great nothing can phase you out – travel, ref etc.

  • Comment 3, posted at 06.09.09 14:12:50 by rekinek Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition Winner Author
    rekinekTeam captain
  • And great teams do not allow themselves to be outplayed as we were yesterday…

    But hopefully this loss is what builds on that character we need…

  • Comment 4, posted at 06.09.09 14:25:07 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • One has to ask the question. When it comes to writing articles, is Morne considered a ‘great’
    His posts are ‘great’ in length!
    Just kidding boet. I enjoyed your article!! Well done! :wink:

  • Comment 5, posted at 06.09.09 15:27:34 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach

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