Bok coach Jacques Nienaber has disclosed how a small change in detail helped the team go on to achieve World Cup success in 2019.
After two substandard seasons in 2016 and 2017, Rassie Erasmus took over from Allister Coetzee as head coach.
But according to Nienaber, who served as an assistant coach at the time, communication between management and the players needed to be adjusted from 2018.
Speaking to Brenden Nel for the SuperSport website, Nienaber revealed that Erasmus struggled to get information across in a clear, concise way to the team.
‘You can continue to analyse a lot, but when you start delivering you have to be crystal clear in what you want to get through,’ Nienaber said.
‘Where we got it wrong in 2018, is we used a system where ownership is key, and we sent too much information. On a Monday where the meeting is, say, about the kicking game, I would present the game plan on a powerpoint presentation to the team and they will sit there. In 2018 we changed that so that the meeting went to the players the night before.
‘In a kicking game what a nine looks at and wants to see is very different to what a one looks at and wants to see. The players had the luxury of watching those clips in their own personal space on their own devices. Luckily we have partners that actually gave us the luxury to do that.
‘The next morning the players would come in and discuss it. It is an interactive environment, where the player can talk back to me. I’ve put the clips on and they have a look at it. Faf will have a look and interact with me, as will Beast and Steven Kitshoff. So when we actually get to the meeting, it is not 30 minutes as in the past, it is five minutes.
‘It is like, “Guys you’ve all watched it, Beast had a good point here and Handre came with that idea and what do you think about that?”‘
‘But in 2018 we actually did it too much. We never controlled the amount of stuff we gave the players in the evening. I would put 10 minutes of kicking clips, Matt [Proudfoot] would put 15 minutes of lineouts on, Felix [Jones] would put 15 minutes of breakdowns. So on that Sunday evening, the players have over an hour of clips that he has to devour in his head. We got that horribly wrong,’ he added.
Nienaber said it was then decided that management had to change the way in which they presented information to players. And the change worked a charm as it gave players more clarity.
‘In 2019 we periodised the information sharing with the players, because it was too much. On a Monday, Jacques will put this on, and there is only 15 minutes of clips going on. Matt will have to wait until Tuesday while Jacques will not be allowed to put anything out on Tuesday.
‘If you want to point out anything from Monday’s training in a review session, that must go out on Monday night and you’ve only got two minutes.
‘It forced us to control the information and that is the nice thing. We might have too many meetings. It was like having a new toy – so you have the ability so you put up too many meetings. That is what happened to us in the way we coached and shared information in 2018. And we got it horribly wrong.
‘But you adapt and you learn, improve and evolve and in 2019 it was a lot better. The benefit of getting shorter meetings and crystal-clear meetings, players take ownership, give input and it is a transparent plan that goes out to the players.
‘That is the solution we got in 2018, the problem with that solution was we overloaded the players with information – it was just too much. We streamlined it in 2019. I see technology as a good thing, that is where we are going and it is a good thing. But you will probably screw it up first before you get it right.’
And Nienaber believes that is what set the Springboks on the road to World Cup victory.
‘The biggest thing that Rassie got through to the players in the World Cup was clarity – there wasn’t white noise,’ Nienaber said.
‘The motto was, “Let the main thing remain the main thing.” But the main thing could be 20 things, or it can be three things. The key is how you simplify it.’
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