Lessons from the Springboks’ world cup campaign

In 2019, the nation held its collective breath as Siya Kolisi led the Springboks to a final against the highly favoured English Roses.

How wonderful was it then, to celebrate that clear victory that catapulted the Bok’s into a record equalling third title.

The background story was beautifully captured in the documentary Chasing the Sun.

Then came 2023, with the most difficult pool draw of them all. Would our inspirational captain lead his team to victory for an unprecedented fourth time? And against arguably the most successful team in the world, the All Blacks?

On Saturday night, they demonstrated grit, determination and physicality that answered that question.

For a third time in knock-out games, the Bok’s triumphed by one point. It was, as commentator Matthew Pierce quipped, “Unbelievable!”

I thought I could extract 10 lessons from this campaign that entrepreneurs and business owners could use to find greater significance on their own journey:

  • Know your why

Simon Sinek, the business author, says start with why and the how and what will follow. The Springbok’s clearly know their why. The players and management team often repeat, “We play for hope.”

In a nation that has more than its fair share of challenges, hope is a currency we need more investment in. It was French military commander Napoleon Bonaparte who said that leaders are dispensers of hope. While business owners may not be on the world stage like the Springboks, perhaps we can still light up “our stage” with hope.

  • It’s the size of the fight in the dog

This comes from the saying, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but rather the size of the fight in the dog!” How the Bok’s demonstrated that throughout their campaign. In a similar way, entrepreneurs need to hustle until something happens. We have a say in the degree of “fight” that is in us. If you agree with that, then commit to nurturing this flame of entrepreneurship in your journey.

  • Stronger together

It may be a simple saying that has many applications, but the Boks have modelled this in honouring the players; the coaches and broad management team (Look at the stronger together campaign on YouTube). Siya Kolisi emphatically also credits the broad SA public with their achievements. The lesson? No successful entrepreneur ever gets to that place without the support of mentors, friends, family members and a fraternity of partners. Think back on those who have contributed to your journey and take the time to honour them.

  • What the leader says

There is a saying, “What the leader says about his team says more about the leader than the team.”

Siya Kolisi has been effusive in his acknowledgement of the team and the coaches. He is a leader who is quite secure, and that is seen in the tone of “determined achievement” in his talks with the press. As entrepreneurs and business owners, let’s not underestimate the value of speaking well of our team, our suppliers, and our supporters. Magic can happen when we do,

  • Find a way

The Bok’s managed three wins by one point in the knock-out section. They lost key players three times; and they played the top five teams on their way to victory. Statistically it was a virtual Everest. Yet, they found a way. Blocked opportunities evoke entrepreneurship. Statements like “it’s not possible”, “it can’t be done”, “you will never make it”, and so on and so forth, trigger entrepreneurship.

So, when other people see blocked opportunities (a brick wall), entrepreneurs see windows of opportunities. An entrepreneur will climb the wall, dig under it, jump over it, run through it, blast it… And then others can follow.

  • Don’t let ego get in the way of great decisions

Manie Libbok and Cobus Reinach played in the semi-final but didn’t in the final. The coach explained that when it came to rotation and selection, all the players knew it wasn’t about their ego, but who was best for the game.

Manie and Cobus showed great character by reportedly studying their All-black counterparts and feeding that into the team of the day. The lesson? Entrepreneurs can have big egos. Yet never let your ego stand in the way of great decisions. And using the best person for the task.

  • Play to your strengths

In the final against New Zealand, the SA tackle ratio was more than 2:1. The Bok’s are known for their defence, and they played relentlessly to it (SA 209 and NZ 92 tackles).

And what about your strengths or uniqueness? Lean into your strengths and play consistently to them. Your clients, suppliers and family will appreciate the value you bring.

  • The game is bigger than you

Rugby is just a game…. or is it? In SA, the Boks, led by our inspirational captain, have captured the hearts and minds of the broad SA public. They truly represent our beautiful country in an honouring way that lifts the spirit and points to what can happen when we work together.

The lesson? Ultimately, entrepreneurship is about the meaning and value you bring to others. As American entrepreneur Marie Forlea says, “Never start a business just to make money. Start a business to make a difference.”

  • When stuff happens

The Bok’s faced all kinds of curve balls, stumbling blocks and setbacks. These included playing knock-out rugby in heavy rain and being positioned in the so-called pool of death.

It wasn’t the case of if it happens but rather when it happens. And they were prepared enough, agile enough and resilient enough to weather the storm.

Entrepreneurs will face stuff like the Boks. Will you be prepared, agile and resilient? It could make all the difference.

  • Never give up

As individuals and as a team, the Boks should be heralded as those who faced the “giants” with courage, character and a never-give-up mentality.

In the semi-final against England, the Springboks defended a late lead until the final whistle. Entrepreneurs can learn so much from this example.

As Steve Jobs said: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

Who knows what lies on the other side of the choice to press on and not give up.