Mental strength needed to make the Super Rugby finals
The Crusaders' Robbie Fruean scores a try against the Waratahs during round 10 of their Super Rugby match in Sydney on Sunday, April 29, 2012. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
When someone tells you to not think about an elephant, what do you do? Yep, you think about an elephant. I bet you’re thinking about an elephant right now.
Pondering large African land mammals isn’t going to cause any issues, but replace the word ‘elephant’ with ‘finals’ and things can get interesting.
At this time of the Super Rugby season every team that’s in contention for a finals berth will use the same phrase: ‘We’re not thinking about making the finals, we’re just taking it one game at a time’.
There’s not a lot more you can expect them to say with a microphone in front of them. It would take a gutsy player or coach to stand up and say that they are concentrating on something that is still weeks away. But when that f-word starts to get bandied about, players, coaches and staff can’t help but think about it. It’s like not thinking about that elephant.
If everyone was unable to put the lure of finals footy out of their mind, then everyone would be on equal footing coming into these last two rounds. Unfortunately this is not the case.
The mental strength of rookie Jesse Mogg could not be on the same plane as veteran Richie McCaw. Similarly, a Beaudan Barrett couldn’t have the mental toughness of Will Genia.
All the players who are vying for a playoff spot will be thinking about results, permutations and hypotheticals, but some will be keeping it under control, while the rest will be considering the end game, rather than the player in front of them that can end the game going on right now.
With nine teams in contention, the Super Rugby competition is the closest it’s ever been and every slight advantage helps. The key will be how each player deals with the pressure. Teams like the Crusaders, Reds and Bulls have this mental toughness in spades.
Unfortunately, the Brumbies and Highlanders do not and as much as they’re ‘only thinking about this weekend’, the finals will be playing on several rookies’ minds.
That’s when mistakes happen.
It’ll be interesting to see over the next couple of weeks if people can ignore the elephant and let the finals – and their place – materialise. Whoever is mentally strongest in the next few weeks will win the right to play a few weeks more.
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