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Creating the new: Learning from the world champions that have inspired millions

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

by Francois Lombard

As we sit in the aftermath of what has truly been a world triumph, I simply can’t help but wonder what led the South African Springbok team, to rise from the ashes of 2016 (Ranked 6th in the world) to world cup champions (ranked 1st) in 2019. Across South Africa a sense of cohesion has erupted, much as was the case with previous milestones such as hosting the soccer world cup, embracing democracy and the loss of our precious icon Mr. Mandela. Regardless of the depth of knowledge about rugby, I have seen eyes filled with hope, not knowing the rules, but sharing in the optimism.

It is clear that the rugby world cup victory was so much more than just a rugby match, it was the hope, the dream and the unity that caught the nation’s attention and oh boy, how desperately we need it. For me, the most significant insight of this 6week journey, was the perspective that there is still hope to be found and that the term ‘unity’, which has so long eluded us, is actually possible.

I have always found it mesmerising that when a plane approaches the runway, the passengers attention is locked outside. They are fascinated by the busy roads, filled with rushing cars, miles and miles of houses, streets filled with people as small as ants. And then as silence fills the cabin, people all but get lost in their own thoughts thinking of what awaits them when their feet hit the terminal floor. For me perspective is like this, it is the ability to zoom out and create a new lens which opens up possibilities

Based on this belief of creating something new, I believe that there are valuable lessons that can be learned from our beloved Springboks:

1. Creating distance to truly see

Captain and inspirational leader, Siya Kolisi, summed it up perfectly when he said that they knew about every message, every good luck and every video that was posted in support of the Springboks and it was in that, that they realized that this was far greater than just a rugby game. This is supported by the Psychological distancing (Rene de Ruijter) phenomenon that has helped explain the inclination of where we as humans tend to go wrong. This psychological distance occurs when we experience something as NOT happening here, now and to ourselves. This aims to explain why we so easily have solutions to other’s problems but struggle to solve our own complexities.

As a result, it is the art of stepping back that leads to more creative solutions, brings a different perspective and embeds a greater sense of self confidence.



  • How would you solve this problem if you were giving advice to a friend?

  • How would Nelson Mandela (or another inspirational figure) solve your problem?


2. Creating a new definition

Springbok coach, Rassie Erasmus, responded to a question regarding the pressure of playing in a world cup final by referring to a discussion he had with his team. To summarise: pressure in South Africa is not having a job, having a loved one murdered or wondering where the next meal was going to come from, thus the rugby world cup final was not about pressure or the failing thereof but instead it was about the word hope. We often step into a space of thinking the world will end if we don’t get this done now, if we don’t succeed today or if we fail to reach the outcome by the world’s set out date.

As a result, it is the art of redefining my current reality that enables me to release the pressures of everyday life and simply put, release myself from external expectations.



  • If this doesn’t work out how I planned, will it truly be the end of the world?

  • By not achieving what I intend, will this affect my personal value?


3. Creating a new focus

As video footage of the coin toss, the England team’s reaction and scenes of the post-match investigation was released one clear distinction kept coming up. The Springboks played for something bigger than themselves, they showed what unified hope looks like in real life, whereas England quite simply just wanted the glory of being the best in the world. I have seen people work themselves to close exhaustion for a position, a team or a company that they truly believe in, a cause greater than their own significance which proves the power of benevolent intent.

Rassie Erasmus advocated that the culture he aimed to impart in the South African Rugby society was not based on looking for the biggest pay-check but instead giving selflessly themselves and adding value to the whole team.. This was so beautifully illustrated with players putting everything they had into the final. Even more telling was after the game with all interviews, photoshoots and award ceremonies no-one said “I did really well”, “I wanted this” or “I gave my everything because I needed this”. Rather statements referring to the country, their teammates, their families echoed through the conversations between this team and the world awaiting their testimonies.

Maybe the greatest lesson we can learn from the Springbok team, is that if we focus on what we give rather than on what we need, the world will truly be a better place.



  • When last did I give unconditional to my teammate, friend or family member?

  • Is my focus on what I am getting or on what I am giving?


This Springbok success story will long be remembered, and maybe the most valuable lesson I learned from them is something that Mandy Hale said:

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others”


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