A winning team built on little more than passion

Liz McGregor who is writing a book on South African Rugby published this great article in Business Day:

IT STRIKES me, travelling with the University of Cape Town (UCT) rugby team in the Varsity Cup competition, that these young men are learning things that will stand them in good stead when they enter the world of work. Team work, discipline, setting goals, and submission of a kind to authority and a common culture.



It’s a short, sharp competition — starting on February 1 and ending on March 29. Eight tertiary education institutions take part and, almost midway through this year’s contest, only UCT and Stellenbosch are unbeaten.


When UCT plays away we meet at Cape Town airport at some ungodly hour on a Sunday morning to allow the team time to settle before the game, which is played on a Monday night. They’re instantly recognisable — because they’re mostly huge and all dressed in the team’s casual uniform: blue and white striped golf shirts.


But it’s also the sheer size of the group: apart from the 23-strong squad, there are physiotherapists, a doctor, a kicking coach, a backline coach, a scrumming coach, a manager and, driving it all, head coach John Dobson.


In conversation later — once the task of checking everyone in and ensuring they’re all heading roughly in the direction of the right boarding gate is accomplished —– Dobson takes the corporate analogy further.


When the Varsity Cup was inaugurated two years ago, UCT rugby was in a parlous state. National rugby’s patchy record in transformation had turned it into a priority for the university. But UCT had rather ignored transformation. The rugby club barely featured in the university budget. Their playing fields — the Green Mile below the Jameson Steps — were glorious from the perspective of natural beauty, with Table Mountain looming above and the Cape Flats spread out below — but were in poor condition. They are still full of potholes and there is minimal seating for spectators and there are no floodlights.


Nevertheless, when the Varsity Cup was inaugurated in 2008, Dobson, together with former Springbok Robbie Fleck, decided the time had come to build a team that would make UCT proud. “We had to do everything from scratch. We had to create the right culture and to do that we had to get the right people. We had no money so we couldn’t go out and buy players, but we were at a university so we had access to decent people: people who had a perspective on life; who were free thinkers. They weren’t playing just for a contract but out of passion…

click here to read the full article on the businessday.co.za website

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