Five Lessons From Five Failures

Shhh! Just between you and me, Ned’s on a secret mission to the northern hemisphere. I’m not saying that Shag is involved, but let’s just say that it involves secret caches of Maketu Pies behind enemy lines. To cover my undercover moments, I’ve selected a few choice moments from the Road To Redemption.

Originally published 23 October 2010

Now is the time we must begin to focus.

One year, just twelve months, a mere 365 days to prepare for the Final of the Rugby World Cup 2011.

We all know that the real battle is won in the mind, and that forgetting the pain is the path to repeating the pain.  So let’s start the preparation by pinning some hard facts to the walls of our mental dressing room.

We’ve lost five in a row.

Five.  In a row.

These are the hurts that we must address.  These are the wounds that we must feel again, poke and prod, gouge and squeeze if we are going to be able to win in just one year.

1991 Dublin, Ireland, Semi-Final, vs Australia, 6-16

Forcing Wyllie and Hart to work together is about as stupid as the Rugby Union ever got.  And that’s plenty stupid.  Sacking Buck Shelford so that Gary Whetton could be captain was only marginally less stupid.

Lesson 1: Leadership matters.  So choose wisely, and then let them get on with it.

1995 Johannesburg, South Africa, Final, vs South Africa, 12-15

Jonah Lomu, Nelson Mandela, Suzie – all played a part in making this tournament into the most dramatic yet.  And much as I appreciate the historical importance of Mandela’s emblematic appearance to present the Cup to Matt Damon, I just bloody hate losing in extra time to a bloody drop kick when we had had enough opportunities throughout to grab the bloody thing for ourselves.

Lesson 2: Every detail counts. 

1999 London, England, Semi-Final, vs France, 31-43

Leading 24-10, the All Blacks managed to find new ways to let the French be French.  The looks of incomprehension and panic on their faces as the second half progressed describes the problem: can anyone imagine Whineray not knowing what to do?

Lesson 3: When you’ve got your hands around their throat – squeeze harder.

2003 Sydney, Australia, Semi-Final, vs Australia, 10-22

We lost this one during the anthems, with Phil Waugh’s wild-eyed energy contrasting with a brittle nervousness from the kiwis.  The technically-inferior Aussies played like demons possessed, while the ABs tried to play a controlled cerebral game.  Passion swamped skill.

Lesson 4: Channel the emotion.

2007 Cardiff, Wales, Quarter-Final, vs France, 18-20

The best-prepared team would win the Cup, said the NZRU, so the ABs were given every treasure and pleasure they could imagine.  And the result was our worst ever.  I could go on and on about the quality of the surface and the quality of the ref, but the hard fact is that the ABs didn’t convert a mountain of possession and territory into points, while the French took every chance they had.

Lesson 5: Of course the ref is against us, we’re the bloody All Blacks.  Suck it up and win anyway.

About Ned Davy

By hokey, the big fella’s tipped into his 50s. A rangy loose forward in his prime, good with the ball in hand, but rarely up with the play any more.
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