Preparing for final is a season-long process

Bryan Habana from South Africa in action. (Photo by Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images)

Bryan Habana from South Africa in action. (Photo by Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images)

Pride plays a large part in the make-up of a Super Rugby side. It’s almost like having an extra man on the park.

Pride in the jumper you are wearing is certainly a vital ingredient in the build-up to a game as important as a final.

It’s a quality that a coach looks for in a team and certainly influenced my decision to take the job at the Brumbies when it was offered.

There are always massive expectations of the side and they are the most successful Australian franchise by a long way, with two titles and a string of appearances in the play-offs which is phenomenal.

Especially when you realise that the team was only formed in 1996 from what was basically the leftovers from the then Queensland Reds and the New South Wales Waratahs.

Yet this season the Brumbies became the first provincial side to beat the British and Irish Lions since Northern Transvaal in 1997. And managed to win in the semifinal at Loftus, the first time the Bulls have been beaten in a play-off match in their own territory.

We prepared for the final in the knowledge that no team have ever gone to New Zealand to play a final and won, but what has made this group special is that they have accepted the challenges and managed to stand up and deliver.

It is this pride in what they want to achieve that I have tried to build on since coming to Canberra, and something I looked for in the Springbok sides I coached, wanting to see that intense passion every time they pulled the jersey over their heads or put on the blazer.  It was something there was no negotiation on when the people out there who support you want you to do well.

But there’s far more to approaching a final than pure emotion and a lot more than just the 80 minutes on the park. There’s a lot that has to happen off the field to be added to a desire to succeed, getting the right structures in place and installing the correct set of values long before the opening whistle blows.

They have had a lot to do with instilling their own group ethic on the team living and training together, sitting down for meals together and playing for one another.

I have also tried to keep the pride they have in the Brumbies jumper by having a former player present the match jerseys whenever possible.

All those retired players have said just about the same thing … it was the best time of their lives … they remember their playing days with great pride … it’s a constant theme.

I know that if I came back into the dressing room in 10 years time and listened to one of the current squad talking to the next generation of Brumbies players, I could virtually write the speech for him.

I am always reminded of what sport means by something the great Sir Don Bradman once said.

“We are all temporary custodians of the great game of cricket,” he said. “It is the responsibility of the current players to ensure the game is left in a better state than when they played.”

That is what this current Brumbies side is about.

Pride in what they are doing and pride in what they want to leave behind. Preparing for a final is a season-long process, not just that 80 minutes out there.

Jake White is South Africa’s World Cup-winning coach of 2007 and is now coaching the Brumbies.




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today in print