The rugby world cup concludes this coming saturday with a titanic clash between england and south africa. I say titanic because the 'boks have been looking solid all tournament, while the english have risen from the dead with a string of powerful performances that have taken them a game away from retaining their crown. Considering that south africa have already beaten england 36-0 a few weeks back in the group stages, it should be very interesting to see how much of the psychological effects of that game are still lingering in the minds of both sets of players.
This post was supposed to introduce a theory of mine that I have been honing for a few weeks but was unfortunately dented slightly with the argies' demise to the 'boks last night. The argentinians were hands down the most emotional bunch of players prior to every match. At least half the team was crying at the lineup for the national anthems, and some were even reduced to quivering wrecks. Throughout the tournament I noticed a trend in which the team that seemed to be more fired up during the national anthems in crunch matches seemed to be playing with a higher intensity, and ultimately either won the game or ran the score much closer than anticipated against heavily favored opposition. The argentines, fueled by what seemed to be some real pride in their country and a quite inspiring anthem, were undefeated until last night. The theory had been working so far, with the english really getting pumped up to God Save the Queen over the past two games which got them playing with real intensity from start to finish. The french have another great anthem in La Marseillais, and they really got into it against the kiwis in cardiff, resulting in one of the greatest and most memorable upsets of all time. Although the stade de france was booming two nights ago, the players seemed to be less emotional than the english before that game and the final result was a win for the red roses.
So far so good theory-wise, except for last night. The springboks have been cool and composed throughout the tournament, without really having any real worries (except maybe for Fiji, but that didn't last for too long) and they stood up for their anthem with looks of determination. The argies were typically fired up, with tears flowing so fast and far that it really moved you to see such big men in such a sorry state. End result was a bok win, but for a few mistakes I think that the argentines could well have won the game. Actually, now that I type this out I think my theory is still quite valid. The argies had the intensity at the beginning of the game and were looking much the better side until a few costly giveaways. The south africans then had the mental fortitude to use that points advantage as leverage to negate the intensity of their opponents and put in a very professional display of rugby. I think the argentines could have won this world cup with a little bit more control and discipline.
Key lessons here:
1. Have an inspiring national anthem full of crescendos.
2. Make sure a good few members of the team cry at the start. One player ala John Hayes for Ireland won't produce the required effect. You need at least 3 criers.
3. Convert the crying into anger.
4. Don't concede silly penalties and don't give away interception tries.
I think I'm gonna go apply for the (soon to be) vacant new zealand post now after that inspiring set of sentences.