As much as you need to be physically tough to play a contact sport like rugby, you also need to be mentally tough.
Like they say “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
“Only the strong will survive”, surely they are not only talking about being physically strong?
What causes teams and players to buckle under the pressure or for failing to get over that final hurdle?
I took a few teams that have the ability to reach the final, but not always having the BMT to win the final.
The All Blacks must be a classic example of such a team and their record speaks for itself, but when it comes to that final 100m they just don’t have enough steam to take them over the finish line.
New Zealand vs World Cup:
The All Blacks are rated as the No 1 rugby side in the world and yet have only managed to win the World Cup twice out of a possible 7 times (1987 & 2011).
After winning the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 on home soil, they lost their semi-final to Australia in 1991 before winning the playoff for third. In 1995, they improved by reaching the final but losing in extra time to hosts South Africa. They finished in fourth place in 1999, after losing their semi-final and then the third place playoff game. In 2003, The All Blacks were knocked out by hosts Australia in the semi-final, before finishing third. The 2007 World Cup saw their worst tournament, being knocked out in the quarter finals by the host nation France. In 2011 the All Blacks won their second World Cup after 24 years. (almost every World Cup being knocked out by the host, it seems like they can only win the World Cup when it’s in New Zealand)
New Zealand hold several World Cup records: most World Cup Matches (43), most points in one match (145 versus Japan in 1995), most cumulative points over all World Cups (2,012), most tries overall (272), and most conversions (198). Several individual players also hold World Cup records; Jonah Lomu for most World Cup tries (15 over two World Cups), Marc Ellis with most tries in a match (6 versus Japan in 1995), Grant Fox with most points in one tournament (126 in 1987), and Simon Culhane with most points in a single game (45 versus Japan in 1995) and the most conversions in a single game (20 versus Japan in 1995).
New Zealand has the best record of all teams in the World Cup having a record of 2 (1st), 1 (2nd), 2 (3rd), 1 (4th). New Zealand is the only team to top their pool in every World Cup so far and not to lose a pool match.
With a record like this you would think they would win every World Cup.
You find the same in soccer. England being one of the top ranked soccer playing countries in the world, and probably being among the favourites in every World Cup, have only managed to walk away with the cup once.
England vs Soccer World Cup
Currently ranked 7th, and playing in World Cups for 60 years (1950 – 2010) England have only managed to lift the cup once in 1966 and a 4th place finish in 1990.
Our beloved Proteas. Ranked 2nd in ODI’s and T20’s enter every international tournament among the favourites, but always ending in disappointment.
South Africa vs Cricket World Cup
1992: Semi Finals – vs England
1996: Quarter Finals – vs West Indies
1999: Semi Finals – vs Australia
2003: First round
2007: Semi Finals – vs Australia
2011: Quarter finals – vs New Zealand
ICC World Twenty20
2007: Super 8
2009: Semi-Finals vs Pakistan
2010: Super 8
ICC Champions Trophy
2000: Semi Finals
2002: Semi Finals
2004: First round
2006: Semi Finals
2009: First round
Then there is a team like the Lions, always a strong contender in the Currie Cup and always featuring in the play offs, but when it comes to Super Rugby it’s another story. Why?
SUPER 10: 1993.
Super Rugby 1996-2011 standings
1996 10th, 1997 5th, 1998* 12th, 1999 *11th, 2000* 4th, 2001* 3rd, 2002* 11th, 2003* 12th, 2004* 12th, 2005* 11th, 2006* 13th, 2007 12th, 2008 14th, 2009 12th, 2010 14th, 2011 14th.
*Played as the Cats
CURRIE CUP (10): 1922, 1939, 1950, 1952, 1971 (shared), 1972, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2011.
CURRIE CUP STANDINGS – 2003-2011
Year (pos): 2003 (4) 2004 (4) 2005 (2) 2006 (5) 2007 (3) 2008 (4) 2009 (6) 2010 (5) 2011 (1)
We always have high hopes for The Sharks before Super Rugby season and yet they only manage to scrape through to the play offs, depending on what happens in the final rounds.
Runners-up: 1996, 2001, 2007
Semi-finalists: 1997, 1998, 2008
CURRIE CUP (6): 1990, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2008, 2010
CURRIE CUP STANDINGS – 2003-2011
Year (pos): 2003 (2) 2004 (5) 2005 (3) 2006 (4) 2007 (2) 2008 (1) 2009 (1) 2010 (1) 2011 (2)
And also just to throw this one in the mix, it’s not just teams that struggle with, call it BMT, pressure, mental blockage to overcome your opponent, but there are also individual battles going on.
Darryl Cullinan vs Shane Warne
Despite a first-class career spanning almost 20 years, sources such as the Herald Sun quote Cullinan as being Shane Warne’s bunny. Cullinan averaged 12.75 against Australia, falling to Shane Warne on four occasions. Cullinan also fell to Warne eight times in One-Day Internationals.
By winning the Rugby World Cup in 2011 will the All Blacks be unstoppable going forward, having that monkey off their backs, overcoming the so called chokers label of World Cup Rugby or was it just a mental block they had to get through, backing themselves as the best rugby team in the world and believing in themselves.
Would we say the Lions are mentally strong enough to compete in Super Rugby? If not strong enough to beat the NZ and Australian teams why can’t they beat the SA teams, every year they play the same players managing to reach the semi finals of the Currie Cup, they play them twice in Super Rugby and twice in the Currie Cup, they play at the same stadiums, but as soon as the play under the Super Rugby banner, they cant manage to win?
The Sharks have come close a couple of times, reaching play offs and finals, but again failing to reach the winners podium. Are the defeats in 1996, 2001 and 2007 to big for them to overcome, is the fear of failing causing them not to play to their full potential (as we know they can), are they scared to put themselves in that situation again?
Not having all the answers I asked a buddy of mine, Baldwin McBean.
A player that’s played various forms of the game from 15 man to international 7’s.
Baldwin played for Blue Bulls u19, u21, EP CC, Griquas CC, Springbok 7’s, Eagles CC and Southern Spears.
As a player you are constantly under the pressure of failing, causing you to not play to your full potential, having nothing to lose towards the buildup, but as soon as you reach the final you suddenly have everything to lose. There could be pressure from younger, bigger, faster players coming into the team, a fear of losing your place in the starting line up causing you to be more cautious rather than backing yourself to go for broke.
It seems like you can train your body to be physically strong for all those big hits week in and week out, but if the mind is not mentally strong you might find yourself at the back of the pack.Tweet