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Mental fitness an issue

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We know our teams can perform, but why can't they do it consistently?

Daniel du Preez and the rest of his Sharks teammates know all too well what the phrase from hero to zero means. Picture: Muzi Ntombela BackpagePix

Is mental weakness to blame for the South African sides’ inconsistent Super Rugby performances?

The 2018 Super Rugby season has really been something else. The Sunwolves, in their last season in the competition, have beaten the Chiefs. The Waratahs have beaten the Crusaders.

The Crusaders have made it a habit of, probably for their own amusement, making teams think they have a chance up until half time before humiliating them in the second half.

The Sharks went from demolishing the Lions one week to being embarrassed by the Jaguares at home.

The Lions, the kings of SA rugby in recent years, have looked far from it this year.

The Stormers alternated some mediocre performances with a top all-round one against the Rebels.

So what gives?

It’s not the SA results itself so much that has been baffling, but rather the inconsistency.

How do you go from scoring tries that look like they were put together by a master choreographer to seemingly not knowing how to handle an oval-shaped ball the very next week, or vice versa?

And it’s not a new problem either.

In 2017, the Stormers registered some stunning wins – those included ending the Chiefs’ run (34-26) and beating the Blues – while they also ran the men from Waikato close in the quarter-finals.

The Sharks know the script of ‘from hero to zero’ all too well you just never really know where they’ll feature.

The South African teams have shown that they can perform, all of them. But for some reason, they haven’t succeeded in doing so consistently.

Apart from physiological challenges that come with certain matches and venues, like altitude for example, there’s not much else to point the finger at when it comes to figuring out why South African results have resembled the bounce of a rugby ball.

And it’s something that needs to be addressed, not just with teams, but individuals within those teams as well. Because just like our teams struggle, individual players do to, and too often we’re too quick to say he ‘just doesn’t have BMT’

It’s a South African problem.

I’m not talking about losing matches that would always be a mismatch anyway. Here I’m not asking why South African sides can’t string together a series of wins over the Crusaders that’s so long it would rival certain politicians’ speeches.

I’m asking why, way too often, we lose matches we just shouldn’t lose. Why we fail to close games out. Why we have bogey venues. Why we go from champagne rugby to play that looks like Under-13 B-team trials in less than two weeks.

Mental preparation and strength is as big a part of sport as tactics and fitness. And it should be treated as such.

South African teams can play. That we all know.

They just need to get mentally fit to do so consistently.