The simplicity of success

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 2 Jun 2011 at 11:07
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Retention, recruitment, and team culture.  This is what success in rugby is built on.

Or more to the point, these are the three key areas Reds coach, Ewen McKenzie, focussed on when he set to turn the Rubbish Reds around into a log-leading Super Rugby championship contender in just over a year, according to an interview in the latest issue of SA Rugby Magazine.

I have written a number of columns in recent times on coaching, unions, structures or the so-called recipe for success.  Of course there is no such recipe or blueprint but rather, what principles are applied within any team, club or union.

The simplicity of McKenzie’s ‘blueprint’ is extraordinary.  Where we often fall into the trap of trying too many things, over-analyze or trying too hard, we forget that success is usually and most often found if we apply basic principles.

What is even more extraordinary, is the timeframe in which McKenzie achieved this, but for me that says more about the person than the principles that needs to be applied.

Professional rugby is not for sissy’s, patience is a commodity seldom afforded to individuals in this cut-throat environment where success is only measured by the trophies in your cabinet, or success on the pitch for those 80 minutes which is broadcasted to the thousands of stakeholders of the game.  In fact, I think at times we often afford coaches in South Africa too much time to stamp their authority on a team or to turn teams around with the all too familiar, 3-year plans we hear about so often.

The reality in any professional environment is that your are judged only by what you can be measured on, and coaches will always be measured by what is produced on the pitch right now.

Whereas I always cautioned that we are not patient enough as a rugby nation, I am now starting to lean a bit more towards the idea of coaches either starting to make an impact within the first 12 months of their stint, than a promise that they will produce results in 3-years time.

I am starting to believe we are making it far too easy for coaches to bullshit their way into high profile, high paying jobs, and also allow them to continue to bullshit the stakeholders and supporters of those teams throughout the period they are allowed to stay in power.

Excuses like coaches inheriting the problems of their predecessors are also starting to wear a bit thin.  When a coach is offered an opportunity he knows very well what he is getting himself into, if he does not possess the expertise to change the situation around in a short space and time, perhaps he does not deserve the position in the first place.

The biggest problem with the patience and time afforded over 3-or 4 year periods, is that if success is not achieved, or change not effected at the conclusion of that timeframe you have not only lost all those years, but also have to convince your stakeholders, investors and supporters to be patient for the next 3 to 4 years for the next guy to come in and fix things.

We might just also consider trying to take the stance of ‘if he cannot change the situation in 12 or 18 months, he won’t be able to in 36 months’.

In conclusion this brings me back to McKenzie’s three key areas of success; retention, recruitment, and culture.

From a South African perspective and given the first two key areas are largely financially driven, failure in those areas are simply down to bad business which will include bad planning or bad investments (poor player recruitment and not investing enough in feeding structures).  Accepting this it becomes clear that any coach needs the buy-in from his bosses in the union for those areas to succeed, most importantly, there needs to be a plan to the extent of; ‘this is what we have, this is what we want, and by this date is when we need it’.

The third key area, culture, who some might say is the most important, is as much influenced by the two preceding areas as it is by the man that takes charge.

For weeks we have debated whether the ‘type’ of coach or that his personality is sometimes perhaps not suited for the role he is looking to occupy, specifically when it comes to the ‘team culture’ that exists within different unions or franchises, and although I cannot get myself to track back on the fact that it does play a vitally important part, considering what McKenzie has achieved at the Reds in the last 12 to 18 months, suggests to me that even something like a ‘team culture’ which is hard to define or measure, starts with the ability of the coach to run the show professionally, built on the foundations of proper planning.

And to be honest, given from what I see from most of the South African franchises now and in the past, where tunes change from one week to the next and out of the ordinary signings, call-up’s and recruitment takes place, we fail at the very basics.


  • the perils of posting an awesome original piece at the same time that the Sharks team is announced 🙁

  • Comment 1, posted at 02.06.11 12:01:03 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 1) :

    Moments of inspiration sometimes comes at the most unfortunate times, usually when sitting on the bog but this is similar! 😆

  • Comment 2, posted at 02.06.11 12:03:35 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 2) : Excellent piece… now about Meyer Bosman 🙂

  • Comment 3, posted at 02.06.11 12:08:13 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 3) : Meyer Bosman aka the “missing link” aka the “turnstile” 😀

  • Comment 4, posted at 02.06.11 12:22:24 by Megatron Reply

  • @Megatron (Comment 4) : Turnstile or barn door could do for Bosman but the missing link is owned by Luke.

  • Comment 5, posted at 02.06.11 12:39:50 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • You should have mentioned frogs. Guaranteed plenty of comments. 😈

    Some possible good news from SANZAR, they might be scrapping the 4 points for a bye malarkey next season. 😎

  • Comment 6, posted at 02.06.11 13:35:30 by McLovin Reply

  • @McLovin (Comment 6) : No, you got it wrong. Frogs on their own wont do it. It must be phrased in a derogatory manner towards the individual thus “the frog” when writing about Freddy.

  • Comment 7, posted at 02.06.11 15:31:13 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 7) : I still see no “derogatory” manner nor malice in the way it was phrased yesterday…but I guess people read things as they want to see it. It could be sort of a term of endearment. If I had to crap my pants everytime people referred to me as That Blonde, it would have been the highest mountain on earth! Also…I still do not get how referring to a Frenchman as “frog” or a Englishmen as “pom” could be Racist, as it was made out to be. Perhaps “nationalist”…if their is such a word…

  • Comment 8, posted at 02.06.11 15:54:02 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 8) : Its historical, the fact is if it makes people uncomfortable why use it. Im absolutely sure that Rob meant no malice yesterday.

  • Comment 9, posted at 02.06.11 16:07:59 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • Now that I calmed down and accepted my fate for the weekend I had a chance to read the article.

    Great article Morne as usual.

    My biggest concern with the Sharks is the regression and stagnation and not progression that we should expect.

  • Comment 10, posted at 02.06.11 16:08:10 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 9) : I am not gonna argue about that – and you are right about the “uncomfortable factor” – but can we just assume that Freddy would feel uncomfortable – or was the blogger uncomfortable? 😉

  • Comment 11, posted at 02.06.11 16:10:58 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Salmonoid (Comment 7) : Hopefully he doesn’t play like a momparra when he takes the field on Saturday. 😈

  • Comment 12, posted at 02.06.11 16:11:02 by McLovin Reply

  • @Ice (Comment 11) : We cant speak for Freddy, he is but one of millions of Frenchmen, many of whom would have felt uncomfortable. Im not French but do know that they generally dont like being called frogs.

  • Comment 13, posted at 02.06.11 16:28:22 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @McLovin (Comment 12) : Snaaks, but who is he?

  • Comment 14, posted at 02.06.11 16:29:41 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 14) : The frog. 😈

  • Comment 15, posted at 02.06.11 16:31:50 by McLovin Reply

  • @McLovin (Comment 15) : What team is he playing for?

  • Comment 16, posted at 02.06.11 16:39:28 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • I actually thought that McKenzie was a bit of a let down at the Tahs. They had the financial muscle and the players, yet he was never able to deliver. He didn’t last long in Paris either. Phil Mooney, his predecessor took over Queensland when they were rock bottom and he (probably along with a few other guys behind the scenes) deserve some credit for putting the team in place that’s allowed McKenzie to do so well in the last year and a half.
    In truth, Queensland have always been a rugby stronghold in Australia. They are now once again playing to accepted level. In the last decade they’ve been serious underachievers.

  • Comment 17, posted at 02.06.11 19:01:41 by beet Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 13) : Most French people I know don’t mind it either.

  • Comment 18, posted at 02.06.11 19:34:29 by lostfish Reply
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  • @beet (Comment 17) : McKenzie was a huge let down at Stade. I don’t think he had enough support. I do know that he is interested in signing some if the Stade players.

  • Comment 19, posted at 02.06.11 19:37:23 by lostfish Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter Competition Winner
  • @lostfish (Comment 18) :
    Yes, but apparently you don’t have the authority to decide how the French feel – others do.

  • Comment 20, posted at 02.06.11 19:41:58 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • Interesting article Morne.

  • Comment 21, posted at 02.06.11 19:43:04 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @lostfish (Comment 18) : Most or all. When it becomes all it becomes OK. @<a href="#comment-

  • Comment 22, posted at 03.06.11 10:56:15 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 20) :
    Its got nothing to do with authority, its got everything to do with sensitivities, one would think that if there is one nation that would know about this then it would be South Africans.

    A while ago I met a Mozambican at Xai Xai and he proudly told all and sundry that his name was K*+%r piellitjies, does that now give me the right to assume that all Mozambicans dont mind being called the same.

  • Comment 23, posted at 03.06.11 11:15:13 by Salmonoid Reply
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