Is success in rugby defined by an individual or by a collective team effort?
I know it is almost impossible to define so I won’t try and give you an answer to that question, but I am going to try and explore which is more important.
Throughout Peter de Villiers’ tenure when people tried to play down his achievements I insisted that better Bok teams lost against worse New Zealand and Australian teams in the past, and I stick by that.
During the week Zelim Nel from the Cape Argus wrote a column many De Villiers supporters did or will not enjoy, basically asking and telling us to put his record into perspective. Now the arguments he used in his column is not necessarily something I agree with, but I think most people missed the message in his column, and that is quite simply, if we lose John Smit we are screwed.
Great teams and great era’s are defined by many things, for me, any great team currently or from the past always had a great captain.
I was asked recently why I was so emotional whenever something negative is said about Peter de Villiers. And I think I need to put my support for old Snorre into perspective.
Nothing he has done in the past, or what he has done in his first few months of his appointment as Bok coach, convinced me that he is on the right track until the moment Peter went over to France and asked John Smit to come back to South Africa and lead the Springboks. From that moment, and until he is fired (which is the only way Bok coaches leave) he will have my support for that one single action.
We have debated many times in the past whether you select your captain first, and your team around him, or whether you select the best 22 and pick your captain from that group. It was a contentious debate back in 1995 when Francois Pienaar’s selection of captain basically guaranteed Tiaan Strauss’ exclusion from the Bok team, and it there was similar sentiments when Jake White stuck with John Smit as his captain and first choice hooker when he clearly was not the best hooker in the country.
All of this is of course a matter of opinion and preference, and I am sure you will know on which side of the fence I am sitting on! But it is an opinion which made me slept much easier when I recently read an article by one Gregor Paul of New Zealand when he chatted to Alan Whetton, a former New Zealand loose-forward flanker.
It was a discussion with the former All Black great on why New Zealand, dominating world rugby for the last 20 odd years, failed to win a World Cup since the inception of the tournament which was held on New Zealand soil in 1987.
In what was a summation by Whetton (which I am sure many South Africans will enjoy too given how he lashes out at the lack of discipline we instill in our children today) it basically came down to one thing he said that caught my attention; “We have lost a generation of leaders”.
That one quote sums up so many things for me personally it is almost unbelievable and impossible to highlight all of them in one single article – but the message is clear, strong and to the very point I, and I believe Zelim Nel try to make when we say that; “If we lose John Smit, we are screwed”.
Yes one man cannot win you a game of rugby, as much as one swallow does not make it summer, just as many conspiracy theories or opinions and ‘open secrets’ about De Villiers is, or might be true, but the one thing that defines this Bok team, hailed by some as the greatest ever is defined by only one thing, or one person, John Smit.Tweet