#StrongerTogether: Lessons from the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Sometimes, all it takes to put things in perspective is to put on some Siya-coloured glasses.

As South Africans, we’ve found our groove again, all thanks to Siya Kolisi, Rassie Erasmus and the rest of the Springboks reminding us how strong we are as a united country. Forget all the negative news and leave all the pessimism behind, because this is our chance to take charge of our narrative again.

“We can achieve anything if we work together as one,”
- said Siya after the historical match, and you’d have to be made of stone not to want to after this weekend

We know sport has the power to change the fate of nations. Jesse Owens made Adolf Hitler a global laughingstock when he won his Olympic medals. Didier Drogba used the power of football to stop a civil war. And Nelson Mandela united a divided nation when he put on a Springbok jersey nearly 25 years ago.

We may have gone from Madiba magic to Thuma Mina but this has the potential to be another transformative moment. But to do that, we need to harness the emotion and the unity we are all experiencing and use it to drive change. We need to keep the momentum going, when the euphoria has faded.

These are the lessons we need to remember:

Make Your Chances Count
In a post-match press conference with Siya, Rassie mentioned “lots of luck” as one of the factors that had led the Springboks to this moment. You’d be hard-pressed to argue - a couple of different calls against Wales and we might not have gotten to the finals.

From business to sports, luck always plays a role in our successes or failures. What separates great leaders from the rest is that they know how to take advantage of it. Rassie went on to mention resilience and hard work in the press conference, both of which work hand in hand with luck. Resilience will get you through bad luck, and hard work will put you in a position to be able to take advantage of the good luck.

You may be granted a penalty moments before the final whistle, but it’s still up to you to make it count. Handre Pollard converted his when it mattered. The same was true of Siya years before when he was presented with the opportunity to go to a rugby school. He recognised the chance for what it was and grabbed it with both hands, working hard to make it matter.

The rest is history.

Unity is Built off the Pitch
One of the moments that struck me during the trophy presentation was how Siya first wanted Rassie and then Faf to go pick up the cup. Here he was, the first black captain who’d just led his team to World Cup victory, and his first thought was to share the spotlight with his teammates.

As good of a captain Siya is, he understands that it is the team that wins the cup, not a single great performer. It’s a classic champion’s mentality that the best get to the top by surrounding themselves with the best. And it played out on the day of the match - this was truly a collective effort: Cheslin Kolbe’s fabulous footwork, Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am’s dazzling duet, Handre Pollard’s always-reliable boot and much more.

That kind of unity is hard to come by. You can’t just pull it from nowhere during the big moments. You need to cultivate it through the little moments - those everyday opportunities to build respect and partnership with the people around you.

Just as a rugby game is lost or won in the moments - winning the ball in the scrum or passing at the right second - unity is made up of the thousands of positive choices we make in pursuit of a common vision. That’s when you’re able to achieve something bigger than you ever imagined - the kind of performance that can bring 56 million people together.

Find Your Brick Car and Drive it to Success

We all know Siya’s story by now - the kid who went from watching the World Cup in a tavern because he didn’t have a TV at home to winning it in front of millions of people. Where other kids had toy cars, he had bricks.

Siya’s story is so resonant because it’s difficult to rise above circumstances like that. It takes more than hard work or luck - you have to have a relentless drive to constantly push boundaries and redefine what you are capable of doing. There’s no room for complacency when you’re stuck on a burning platform - you have no choice but to jump into the unknown.

What was Siya’s burning platform? The brick car? The tavern viewing sessions? The desire to do right by his grandmother? Whatever it is, it’s the fuel that powers his resilience and work ethic.

If Siya can go from poverty and brick toys to changing the world, what’s stopping the rest of us from doing the same by finding our own burning platforms?

Ready to Execute?

When the memory of Siya holding up the cup fades and everything starts to go back to business as usual, that’s when you need to ask yourself what’s your burning platform? What is the vision that will drive you forward? How can you better prepare yourself for the moments that can change the course of the game?

Strip it down to its bare bones and the game plan for success is simple. Surround yourself with people who are good at what they do, who have the burning desire to want more and the work ethic to go after it. Give them a shared purpose to build towards. Win each scrum, shake off each hard tackle and convert each penalty as it comes - because all the small victories add up in the end.

The game plan is there and the cup is waiting. The rest is up to us.

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