Should the Wallabies be chasing perfection?

Scott Allen Columnist

By Scott Allen, Scott Allen is a Roar Expert

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    Last week I wrote about the Wallabies’ continued struggles with their basic skills.

    There were some really interesting comments on that article but unfortunately I was too busy to respond to any of them so I wanted to revisit the theme today and discuss some of the topics raised by readers.

    Peter K felt I was expecting the Wallabies to be perfect and that if you demand perfection from players it could in fact be detrimental to performance. Peter commented that “if they have to get something right every single time they will rarely go for it except when it is safe and easy to execute.”

    Don responded by including a quote from Vince Lombardi who once said “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

    Peter went on to talk about Kaizen which in Japanese means ‘change for better’. He pointed out that this is a method used by many businesses around the world “where everyone looks for small improvements in everything you do which is a positive way of looking at it instead of having to be perfect or aim for it but instead look for ongoing improvement which then allows for mistakes.”

    Both sides of that discussion have merit. I agree that it’s not realistic to expect players to attain perfection however I don’t agree you shouldn’t aim for it, so I’m more in the Lombardi camp.

    The way I think about it is that we should expect players to strive to be the best they can be. If the best they can achieve is less than perfect, so be it but as coaches we should encourage players when they do well and not be afraid to point out where they need to improve – we should encourage them to keep striving for better performance even when it appears they may have reached a limit.

    Before I go on, let me point out that I’m only talking here about players who are playing at higher levels. What I advocate here doesn’t apply to kids and it doesn’t apply to social players. In both of those categories participation and enjoyment is the most important thing to aim for.

    Some players at higher levels are gifted athletes who rely on their natural skills to excel. Some of these type of players work really hard to continue to develop their skills and unfortunately some don’t.

    Some players who don’t have the natural talent get ahead due to the amount of work they do and are always striving to be better.

    Regardless of which type of player you’re dealing with, they all react differently to feedback. Some like to be told what they need to improve as long as you tell them, or show them, how to make that improvement.

    Some don’t want any ‘negative’ feedback and would prefer to hear ‘positive’ feedback or be shown what they did well so they can keep doing more of that on the basis that the other things will sort themselves out.

    I don’t believe you can focus only on the positives. A coach has to make players aware of the things they need to do better. I believe players have to understand what the issue is before they can make improvement.

    If you look again at my article from last week you’ll see that I discussed four plays from the Wallabies match against the Pumas. In the first example I pointed out positives from Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge and also negatives for both of those players. In the remaining three examples I pointed out nothing but positives in relation to Will Genia and the lines the ball carriers were running.

    I usually use a similar approach in reviews – show the negatives that need work and try to finish with some positives.

    Despite a mix of positives and negatives there are some players who hate being called out for getting something wrong when in a team review scenario or during training. They would rather receive any negative feedback on an individual basis.

    As a coach you try to balance your approach and not focus on one or two players when discussing positives or negatives but I believe that if you want to play at the higher levels, you have to learn to cop criticism in front of others and understand that it’s not personal.

    If I was conducting a team video review with the Wallabies after that match against the Pumas I’d have no hesitation in showing the clip of Beale overrunning Israel Folau and not getting his hands in the right position. That doesn’t mean I’m attacking Beale – he’s been one of the Wallabies best this year but I don’t think he’s being the best that he can be and nor are any of his team mates.

    Showing individual issues can help the player improve and help the other players in the review understand what the issue was so they can also work on it. Of course I’d then back up the review with some specific work on that area whether in training or outside of training. Just showing players or telling them what to work on isn’t effective in isolation.

    In answer to my original question, I don’t think the Wallabies should be chasing perfection and I’m sure they’re already being driven by the coaches to be the best that they can be.

    Now, let’s imagine I was going to conduct a team review for the Wallabies before they take on the All Blacks tomorrow. Obviously I’d use video to conduct that review but I can give you a reasonable idea of my key points through the use of still frames.

    The area I’d focus on is improving the Wallabies defence because we can’t let the All Blacks run through us as we did in the first Bledisloe match this year or in the dying minutes of the second match.

    I’ll use some examples from the Wallabies’ most recent match against the Pumas to demonstrate areas that need work.

    First, the play I show here is one the Pumas use a fair bit. I expect the Wallabies would have been shown examples of this play before the match and worked on how to defend it.

    From a scrum, Beale and Folau are in the back field to cover any kick from the Pumas.

    This leaves the full Argentinian backline up against five Wallabies in the front line. The Pumas #15 and #14 aren’t in shot at the moment but they’re out there as wide options if the Wallabies get too narrow in their alignment.

    To counter the numerical advantage, Genia has to come across field and take the Puma #10 so that Bernard Foley can slide out to take the #12.

    Hodge starts by covering two players – the #13 and if they play a ball out the back behind him to the #11 who’s going to run an angled line to get outside the #13, then Hodge will have to leave the #13 and slide out on to the #11. He’s the key defender to shut this play down.

    If those three inside players do that, Tevita Kuridrani should take the #15 and Marika Koroibete should stay out to take the #14 and eliminate the possible overlap.

    However, the Pumas didn’t make it quite that simple with a cut pass to their #13 who has #15 outside him running a slight angle back in at Hodge to try and isolate him.

    At the same time both their #12 and #11 are running an angle across field to get out behind the #13 and #15.

    The Pumas #13 becomes the ball player and the Wallabies need to adjust. Ideally Foley needs to take #13 with Hodge pushing on to #15.

    If the ball is played out the back to #12, Hodge would slide out and cover him too. That would leave Kuridrani free to cover #11 coming around out the back with Koroibete staying out on #14 who still isn’t in shot yet.

    But when the coverage goes to a tight shot, you can see how the Wallabies haven’t been able to adjust quickly enough which leaves Hodge on the #15. That leaves Kuridrani and Koroibete in a 3 v 2 situation with #12, #11 and #14 coming at them.

    You can see how the Wallabies are starting to back off to try and buy some time to sort their structure out.

    As the ball is played out the back to #12 coming around you can see Koroibete knows he has to try and stay out on the #14 who is still out wide. This is going to place a lot of pressure on Kuridrani who is now dealing with the #12 who’s about to receive the ball and the #11 who is just out of shot.

    Kuridrani decides he has to slide out on to the Puma #11 who is out of shot but you can see his shadow on the left edge of the screen. Hodge now knows he’s got to slide on to the #12 so Kuridrani can slide out.

    The Puma #12 sees that Kuridrani has started turning out and with the ball in two hands he can either pass or run.

    As Kuridrani starts to accelerate out, the Puma #12 straightens and runs. The Puma #15 running through slightly impedes Hodge.

    Kuridrani is left taking no-one and Hodge has to make a valiant effort to get across in cover to shut this line break down.

    Who was at fault here? It’s really a structural issue rather than an individual issue so I wouldn’t criticize one player in particular – they just need to work better together.

    I’ll bet the All Blacks have a variation of this type of play lined up to throw at the Wallabies tomorrow to try and expose the same issue so hopefully the Wallabies have been working on their defensive structure and communication to defuse this type of play better than they did against the Pumas.

    The other defensive issue I’m sure the All Blacks will have looked at is how Wallaby players coming across in cover situations often struggle with players stepping back inside them.

    Here’s an example from the match against the Pumas.

    Izack Rodda and Jack Dempsey both go for the same man and a quick shift pass creates the line break for the Pumas.

    Kuridrani is coming across in cover and knows that even if he gets across to the player with the ball he has support outside as well.

    A big step inside is coming and Kuridrani needs to make a really quick adjustment.

    He’s not fast enough to make that adjustment and is beaten on the inside.

    Genia is the next defender in line and a pass inside gets around him. That’s Beale just coming into shot at the top right of screen so he’s next up and at this point is inside the Puma player.

    Beale over commits and a slight change in running line beats him on the inside.

    Next up are Foley and Hodge. Another step inside means Foley has to attempt a diving tackle.

    Unfortunately Hodge comes across too far and Foley collides with him and both are beaten on the inside.

    Cover defence is a tricky thing but this example and others in recent matches show the Wallabies need to improve their tracking as they come across to make cover tackles and not over commit too early.

    I expect the Kiwis will have been practicing their inside step technique to try and expose this issue as well.

    Of course, the ideal scenario is to not concede line breaks but when you’re playing the All Blacks there are going to be times when you have to clean up in cover.

    Did I show any positives in those examples? No, so if I was running a real review I would have added a positive clip in to finish with.

    I’m expecting a solid performance from the Wallabies tomorrow night but I’m also braced for an All Blacks onslaught and unfortunately I don’t think the Wallabies will come out on top.

    Scott Allen
    Scott Allen

    Scott has been a rugby contributor with The Roar since 2013. After taking some time out to pursue other roles in the game, including coaching Premier Grade with University of Queensland and the Wallaroos at the recent World Cup, he's returned to give us his insights. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottA_ to hear more from him.

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    The Crowd Says (160)

    • October 20th 2017 @ 7:35am
      Cynical Play said | October 20th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      Perfection? I’d be happy with composed and competitive. Injuries have forced some changes for Bled 3, but I think we will see the benefit of further time together for this side. A couple of bench picks puzzle me, but I think the team will deliver a close result. Even without BB, I see this AB team as a very good cohesive unit with weapons everywhere. Cover defence, as you have said Scott, is the key against the AB counter attack.

      • October 20th 2017 @ 9:33am
        Rebellion said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        You can’t chase perfection when you’re compromised before the team even leaves the dressing room.
        Hannigan, Robertson, Phipps…unbelievable. We have a RWC next year and not only was Joe Powell one of the standout Australian players but Nic Phipps was arguably the worst performed of all the halfbacks. As for Hannigan and Robertson I think we can all agree that their performances in a Wallaby jersey ‘speak for themselves’
        This isn’t a Tah bashing, i’m a fan of Jack Dempsey and think Kepu has been one of our best players this year.
        I just really cannot support this coach until his powers of selection are removed and appointed to an impartial selection committee.

        • Roar Guru

          October 20th 2017 @ 9:39am
          PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          really? does the same old boring stuff have to come into every article.

          Selection wouldn’t be an issue if you are striving for ever improvement , striving for unattainable perfection wouldn’t be the excuse for not getting better with what you have.

          • October 20th 2017 @ 7:51pm
            sheek said | October 20th 2017 @ 7:51pm | ! Report


            What I find interesting, indeed fascinating, about the ABs history, is the legacy handed down from generation to generation.

            Almost every subsequent generation responds to the intense pressure to be as good as their forebears, or better. Rather than baulk or be crushed by that pressure, they are challenged by it.

            Consequently, you won’t see them giving the Wallabies any “freebies” despite having a few key player missing.

            Unlike the Wallabies, perhaps, who aren’t as motivated anywhere to the same extent to honour the legacy , or improve the legacy, of their forebears.

            We can talk about chasing perfection, or catching excellence, or incremental improvement. But there’s something incredibly powerful about not letting down your forebears.

            Especially when they have demonstrated the path to success, honour & glory, over & over.

        • October 20th 2017 @ 11:53am
          Cynical Play said | October 20th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

          Top 3 from halfbacks currently would be Genia, Phipps and Powell. Unlucky for Powell in the RC but he will probably be on EOYT. Phipps is a reliable big game player, and he has finished well all RC.

          Good luck with “impartial selection committee” idea. Will you pick it?

          • October 20th 2017 @ 12:29pm
            Rebellion said | October 20th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

            I’m offering a solution CP whereas you’ve thrown out a personal opinion on Phipps being ‘a reliable big game player’ which is controversial at the very least when considering the quality of his passing at test level. I would consider last year’s English series as ‘big games’ and he was absolutely atrocious.
            ‘Seeking Perfection’ is a philosophical waste of time debate when there are so many flaws in Australian rugby – Chieka’s selection being one of them.

          • October 20th 2017 @ 12:32pm
            Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

            Clearly you didn’t watch Phipps much against England in any of the for tests last year.

            • October 20th 2017 @ 12:55pm
              Cynical Play said | October 20th 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

              You guys using last year as a form guide? Interesting… Maybe try using this year as a form guide. More relevant I would argue. How is Powell a better big-game player than Phipps?

              • October 20th 2017 @ 1:03pm
                Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

                What, you mean 2017, the year that Phipps was so awful that he struggled to start for the Waratahs and often didn’t?

                The 2017 in which Cheika has so little faith in him that he gets about 10-15 mins every match max?

                It’s hard to argue that Powell is a better big game player based on the fact he’s played fewer games. But on the other side, he hasn’t made horrendous game-breaking unforced errors in multiple tests unlike Phipps in most of his recent starts for the Wallabies, so that’d a pretty key difference I would have thought.

                Powell also had a very solid Super Rugby season. Phipps did not.

              • October 20th 2017 @ 1:20pm
                Rebellion said | October 20th 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

                Safe to say CP that your point of view isn’t convincing anyone other than the Tahs blind faithful.
                For players outside of NSW, the selection issue could be considered a ‘glass ceiling’ I guess ?

              • October 20th 2017 @ 1:26pm
                Cynical Play said | October 20th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

                Wow you guys really hate Phipps. And the Tahs. Me, I love them, but then I love the Reds, Brumbies, Rebels too.

                “..horrendous game-breaking unforced errors in multiple tests unlike Phipps in most of his recent starts for the Wallabies …” …. recent?? List them Einstein !

              • October 20th 2017 @ 1:33pm
                Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

                I don’t dislike Phipps. I find some of his behaviour pretty bad (pushing the Argentine medic, throwing Fekitoa’s shoe), but I like the intensity he brings and he always comes across well in the media. I just don’t think he should be a Wallaby (I’d have him behind at least Powell, Ruru, Gordon and Louwrens in the pecking order).

                Most of his recent starts have been when Genia wasn’t available, so the England series last year and the match against England in Twickenham. Who can forget his awful dart and pass that led to England’s first try on the EOYT… From halfway when we had possession. He’s had 60 caps and he still makes these rookie errors in big tests.

                Interesting how in your previous comment your main argument was: ‘ Maybe try using this year as a form guide. More relevant I would argue’, then I point out Phipps’ form was so poor this year that he struggled to start for the Waratahs, while Powell had a very good season, and yet somehow that criteria is dropped.

              • October 20th 2017 @ 2:35pm
                Cynical Play said | October 20th 2017 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

                Ah Fionn, again you seem to ignore my point about current form. Phipps has been in good form as a WBs finisher in the RC. Why would you change bench halves for Bled 3? Tell us “Coach”

              • October 20th 2017 @ 2:38pm
                Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

                He’s had no form as a current finisher to speak of… he has done nothing wrong but neither has he done anything right either. He was okay at the end of the first Argentina test against a team in chaos, that’s it.

                Go on though, champ, go on excusing mediocrity. All that matters is that he hasn’t messed up in his last few 10 min cameos. He surely must be the man for the job if that’s the case.

              • October 20th 2017 @ 3:04pm
                Cynical Play said | October 20th 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

                Harsh and one-eyed, again!

              • October 20th 2017 @ 3:23pm
                Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                How am I in any way one-eyed? I want 5 Waratahs in my starting 15 (Kepu, Dempsey, Hooper, Beale, Folau). Yes, I’m so one-eyed.

                You, meanwhile, are one of the most biased posters on the site. Your comment that the Waratahs were the best team in Australia and getting better a few weeks after the Brumbies thumped them in Sydney was particularly amusing.

                Phipps is just not a very good player in 2017. If you weren’t so biased towards the Waratahs you’d be able to acknowledge that fact.

        • October 21st 2017 @ 8:52am
          PiratesRugby said | October 21st 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

          Rebellion, there is something almost Pythonesque about the way we analyse the Wallabies’ performance week to week in terms of skills, strategy or even psychology when the glaring and obvious problem is selection. Selection determines the structure and balance of the team and undermines culture and morale if it is not merit based. And I totally agree about Kepu and Dempsey. Folau goes ok too. And TPN is a deadset legend.

    • October 20th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      As a coach you need to focus more on the positives when dealing with younger players/kids and less competitive ones (or find a way to couch criticisms as positives), but as players develop and become more elite it is more important to address the negative aspects and mistakes than simply praise someone when they do something correctly.

      By all means you can praise a good play, but players learn more from their mistakes than their successes. Or at least, they should.

      • Roar Guru

        October 20th 2017 @ 8:14am
        Hoy said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        I think at really lower levels, like under 8s/9s, you can hide negatives to some extent, but if a player does something that needs to be highlighted, it needs to be approached. If not, we will get imcomplete players that we all see now and complain about…

        Even saying “I want you to work on…” “I have a drill I want you to do because…”

        • October 20th 2017 @ 8:18am
          Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          As I say, you couch a negative as a positive. As you say, you put it something like ‘This time you did X rather than Y [even if they didn’t]. From now on, I want you to try and do X every time’.

          Rather than criticising them for doing Y you’re praising them for doing X.

      • Roar Guru

        October 20th 2017 @ 9:17am
        PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        Fionn – I totally agree.

        For elite players my difference in philosophy on covering errors is the conversation you have.

        I would show them the video of an error and instead of pointing out what was wrong I would simply ask what can you do better.

        This does multiple things
        1) makes the focus future not past
        2) makes the focus on kaisen , forever improvement
        3) makes the player own it, and involve them without negative confrontation

        Then after they say what they could do better if necessary you can add to it by saying something like , also what about adding this or also looking at doing this.

        The focus is on the player seeing what was wrong and them coming up with what needs to be done.

        Then you ask the player what they have to do to get better in that area (not not perfect or not make any mistakes).

        My philosophy of not aiming for perfection but instead take a suitable risk for reward comes more into it’s own in attack and decision making..

        • October 20th 2017 @ 9:27am
          Highlander said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

          I like this approach Peter.
          Have found it is easier to focus on the negatives if you give context to the pressure you are putting your teammates under, or pointing out the extra work teammates have to do because an individual didn’t do his role correctly.

          Most will respond once they realise the impact of their actions on their teammates.

        • October 20th 2017 @ 1:27pm
          Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          I agree, Peter, it’s better if players can recognise themselves what they’re doing right or wrong, and then they can adjust and improve themselves.

    • Roar Guru

      October 20th 2017 @ 8:08am
      Hoy said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Though thing to chase, perfection… But an great is a more realistic aim here… things like overrunning in support, over or under reading defense… these things shouldn’t be happening at elite level…

      When I say over reading defense, I have noticed that Australian cover defence has a bit of an issue all focussing on the ball carrier… I think this is a major communication issue. Everyone runs to the ball carrier, and no one covers support runners… You can see in the picture above, Genia has the 10 covered, but Beale looks to be coming in on him as well, and not covering the outside runner well enough. You mention Beale “over commits” but really, it was poor decision… he should have stayed slightly inside the fullback to cover the infield run that was shaping up. Go back to the South African game, and you can see Hodge communicating with Beale to take the rampaging 6, as he was covering inside runners, but Beale just wasn’t ready for that decision… though it was the logical and correct call by Hodge to me. Communication in defence is still not quite right yet.

      We are improving, there can be no doubt. But we are still a brain fade away from throwing games away.

      • October 20th 2017 @ 8:43am
        soapit said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        i agree hoy, they seem to have their initial system but when something happens that doesnt match what was specifically practiced it seems to go to headless chooks pretty quickly

        • Roar Guru

          October 20th 2017 @ 9:08am
          Hoy said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

          I think that is what happens with systems… We have a system, but the system relies on specifics to happen… because they have trained and trained for that system, when something strange does occur, they have no capacity to adjust and react, because they have not trained for any other possible outcomes.

          This might be very simplified, but it just seems over the years, our players became pretty robotic. Their ability to adjust used to be next to nothing… They are improving though.

          I also think a major problem is not looking at what your opposition will do. Every time we play the All Blacks first up, it is like we have never played them before… Despite having a year to plan a counter to their game, we just seem to focus on our game. The coaches all say it. The players all say it… But at some stage, they have to look at what the opposition will do, and make plans to counter it.

          • October 20th 2017 @ 9:16am
            Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

            ‘our players became pretty robotic. Their ability to adjust used to be next to nothing’

            It was actually improving from 08-10. It all went south at the RWC, however, and aside from a few fleeting moments such as the 2013 EOYT what you say is accurate.

            It is the same problem that over-coached players have in tennis. They’re really good at playing in a situation like training where the coach feeds to a certain spot on the court at a certain speed and with a certain trajectory/spin, and they’re even good when they come up against someone who hits the ball into their hitting zone, but they are just atrocious against players with different styles/game-plans who try and break the rhythm of their opponents.

            • Roar Guru

              October 20th 2017 @ 9:22am
              PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

              this is a great example of aiming for perfection.

              This robotic training over and over again is so no mistakes happen.

              By its very nature aiming at perfection is the enemy of innovation and thus they find it very hard to think on their feet if something different or unexpected occurs in front of them.

              • Roar Guru

                October 20th 2017 @ 10:34am
                Hoy said | October 20th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

                You see it at club training… Down off the top of the linout, out to the backs, hit it up midfield, two forwards stand over the ball, the rest wrap around, ball comes out, et al…

                Only in a game, two forwards just auto pilot to the midfield, and the rest auto pilot wrap around… only the opposition floods the breakdown, turn over and away they go. Over and over again. Players don’t adjust because their training is like auto-pilot. They don’t train for scenarios, they train to an end. They train to train.

                It is a problem I see when we see snippets of the Wallabies train… what we see is unopposed. I am sure they do contact that we don’t see (I hope), but the unopposed sends shivers up my spine, because I know it is just auto pilot and we seem to play in a similar vein.

            • October 20th 2017 @ 7:58pm
              sheek said | October 20th 2017 @ 7:58pm | ! Report


              What the ABs appear to do, from an early age, is to get the basic skills right, then improve them through intense competition.

              Players must have the basics down pat. They are then taught, it appears, & encouraged, to use those skills to capitalise on any situation that might present itself on the pitch.

              The Kiwis don’t appear to be profiled to play any particular way, but to have the fluidity to change their style to meet changing circumstances, especially within a game itself.

              This is basically how the Ellas & Campo played, although remaining truer to ball in hand play. Campo could & would use the kicking game if ball in hand wasn’t working at a particular point.

              Keeping a flexible mind would appear a necessary requirement.

    • October 20th 2017 @ 8:39am
      soapit said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      indeed scott the cover defence, scramble and reorganisation is just another area where the ab’s have recently excelled.

      if i were aaron smith i’d be eyeing off that gap between genia and the maul in your first sequence with no forwards seeming to peel off in cover there.

      really this article has shown technically what the scoreboard has been indicating for 2 years. the wallaby defence systems (in this i include the ability to adapt them to an unfolding situation) and skills are poor.

    • Roar Guru

      October 20th 2017 @ 8:45am
      Harry Jones said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      Excellent philosophical debate, Scott.

      The way I read PeterK’s argument was: “Never let the Perfect be the Enemy of the Good.”

      This does not posit that Perfection is not the goal; merely that real life informs us the obsession about perfection can (and often does) become antithetical to good (and even very good) improvement.

      This happens constantly in sport.

      But also in the boardroom; or (in my experience) in boarding school, where a brutal obsession on no errors bred an adversity to risk.

      It takes an intuitive sense by a coach to know how to calibrate the search for excellence.

      • October 20th 2017 @ 9:00am
        soapit said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        yes i think its more dont get caught up in instances of imperfection especially if they occur trying something difficult that could have had a very good end outcome.

        i think its fine to aim for near perfection on basics but again keep it in perspective if the occasional error happens. i dont see it as mutually exclusive to peter’s enemy quote.

        the thing about the constant improvement method is every other team is doing the same so if this alone is your benchmark you can easily fall behind. there needs to be a minimum standard in some areas that you want to be getting pretty much 100% right when possible.

        really there no reason you have to sign up permanently to one or the other and a mix is best. expect how the message is conveyed would also make a big difference.

        • Roar Guru

          October 20th 2017 @ 9:03am
          PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

          IMO the AB’s don’t aim for perfection or anywhere near it.
          They make plenty of mistakes, drop a lot of balls etc.

          What they do is strive for greatness all the time and never focus on the mistakes they have made. You never see them drop their heads but look forwards not in the rear view mirror.

          They are all ways looking at the next play.

          • October 20th 2017 @ 9:24am
            soapit said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

            i think if the ab’s made the kind (and amount) of mistakes we were making and lost as many games as we do they would draw a line with certain skills not being good enough.

            what they do is heavily founded on approaching perfection levels in basics.

            they dont need to address issues that come up immediately because they have a long history of success which entrenches an attitude that if they just keep going they will win. if standards dropped or if an area wasnt performing in a game you can bet theyd try and address it.

            hope that makes sense, really gotta run out the door now or risk fury from the missus.

            • Roar Guru

              October 20th 2017 @ 9:33am
              PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

              IMO the level of ability on basics is not because of aiming for perfection but kaisen and aiming at greatness.

              You are looking at the outcome or result not the process to get there.

              • Roar Guru

                October 20th 2017 @ 11:50am
                Sam Taulelei said | October 20th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

                Peter that is the bedrock of the All Blacks mental skills training. Focus on the process not the result.

                Focusing solely on the outcome creates anxiety and loss of confidence/trust. Players become guilty of forcing the play or trying too hard.

              • October 20th 2017 @ 3:33pm
                soapit said | October 20th 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

                i disagree. in reality there should be combination. to make an extreme example you wouldnt accept much less than perfection for player being able to walk/run without falling over like babies. therefore there are clearly some skills that you need to be able to rely upon them doing nearly perfectly to allow you to build on.

                i do feel what im saying is fairly clearly about the process. you dont fear the result because you know youve done the hard work to give you the best chance and can then play to your best. it would be nice if we were at a point that the distance we are from perfection was inconsequential as it is in the ab’s but we’re not.

                this is completely different to expecting no risk and no error. its about aiming to get it as close to right as you can so that you give it your best chance when it happens. i very much doubt that part of this process which allows the ab’s to not fear failure on the field isnt built on a very high standard of basic skills at training. that is very much more process than simply not worrying about the end result on the field.

              • Roar Guru

                October 20th 2017 @ 3:49pm
                PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

                soapit – AB’s aren’t close to perfection even in basic skills.

                Tackling is a basic skill yet they miss 15% of them. That is 1 in 7 tackles.

                97 or 98% is close to perfection.

                Passing is another oft quoted basic skill.

                Not every pass is in front of the player in the right spot or anywhere close to it percentage wise i.e 97% of passes.

                Nor do they aim to get that high either.

                Yes they train at basics a lot, as should the wallabies.

                This gives you muscle memory, it also means under pressure with very little time you have a better chance of executing it right.

                It is not aiming at perfection even in basics.

                I would maintain and increase basic skills of the wallabies since they need to keep improving in this area, ie kaisen, small improvements in everything, never aim for perfection though.

              • October 20th 2017 @ 6:15pm
                soapit said | October 20th 2017 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

                peter i said they approach perfection and do so to a much higher degree than the wallabies.

                again i doubt very much whether ab management dont go through the missed tackles and bad passes and weigh up whether its an issue that needs to be discussed or not or could be beneficial to use as an example to learn from.

                theres no point giving a license to play consequence free rugby if ur not going to help them learn how to do it with as high a chance of success as possible and that means review of things that didnt go so well.

              • Roar Guru

                October 20th 2017 @ 6:21pm
                PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 6:21pm | ! Report

                soapit – of course you go through the errors since in each case there may be an opportunity to improve.

                Where did I say mistakes or errors are not looked at?

                When I say the AB’s don’t focus on the mistakes made I am talking during a game, they don’t lament the dropped ball, the bad pass, the poor kick, they look forward to what they can do next.

                Of course analysis afterwards and accountablity happens but not to reach perfection and eliminate all mistakes

              • October 20th 2017 @ 8:06pm
                soapit said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:06pm | ! Report

                and as i said the reasons the ab’s dont worry during a game as much is because they have a history that whatever they do they win 95+% of matches, mistakes and all. they have the luxury of just waiting to see how it will pan out during the match and then look at it during the week. they know that their skills and hard work beforehand will see them get it right enough times. other teams dont have this same luxury.

                other coaches may need to do it time to time as the situation arises and depending on how simple a fix it was was and what benefit there would be to trying to fix it mid game. i’d imagine they do watch the game unfold and read whats happening in real time and adjust where possible/necessary.

                i agree its pointless focusing on one off errors during a game such as those youve listed. if thats all youre saying then i agree. it does seem you want to take your perfection is the enemy of good philosophy beyond that tho and be a bit more all encompassing particularly as both articles have really been about post match review. again im happy to but aiming for realistic level of perfection does have a place

          • October 20th 2017 @ 9:51am
            Akari said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

            I think the Kiwi mantra of ‘play what’s in front of you’ is the key here, PK. Dingo Dean tried to encourage that with the WBs but the systems people have won and Hoy nailed it when he states,

            I think that is what happens with systems… We have a system, but the system relies on specifics to happen… because they have trained and trained for that system, when something strange does occur, they have no capacity to adjust and react, because they have not trained for any other possible outcomes.

            • Roar Guru

              October 20th 2017 @ 10:05am
              PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

              and it is people striving for perfection that rely on systems rather than instinct , intuition and play whats in front of you

              • October 20th 2017 @ 7:59pm
                sheek said | October 20th 2017 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

                PK – excellent!

              • October 21st 2017 @ 8:56am
                rebel said | October 21st 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

                How did this get through the moderators?

          • October 20th 2017 @ 11:26am
            ethan said | October 20th 2017 @ 11:26am | ! Report

            I think it was on Francis Saili’s debut he dropped a ball that lead to a try. Richie McCaw just jogged by and gave a pat on the back – “next play, mate” is what he said. Saili still managed quite a few good things that game.

            Shows a lot about the future mentality you’re talking about PK.

      • Roar Guru

        October 20th 2017 @ 9:00am
        PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        exactly, you can speak for me anytime.

        In reality focusing or aiming at perfection leads to mediocrity since everyone becomes risk avers and conservative.

        There is not an attitude of allowing mistakes actually even celebrating mistakes in aiming for great.

        To become great you need to take calculated risks, a risk /reward mentality weighted towards reward (tries)

        An aiming for perfection attititude weights the risk / reward towards minimising risks i.e make no istakes, if you make no mistakes you are perfect but doesn’t mean you score any tries.

        I view it this way equating to real world endeavours. Mountain climbers aim for great taking risks but achieving great rewards. Retail bankers minimise risks aiming for perfection i.e no bad loans. Ask a retail banker and their number 1 concern is risk management and strangely for people who lay their life on the line i.e mountain climbers it is not minimising risk at all.

        When I asked them about it they said, if minimising risk was the priority they wouldn’t be climbing in the first place especially the free climbers. They take the safety precautions as required but that’s all , the majority of the focus is on the reward, the best climb possible.

        • Roar Guru

          October 20th 2017 @ 10:24am
          Harry Jones said | October 20th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

          I agree w you all the way on this, PeterK

          The ABs willfully decline perfection; knowing it’s fool’s gold

          It’s like in tennis doubles; you want a partner who poaches, both of you go for it, yes, within a system, but with no fear of failure

          • Roar Guru

            October 20th 2017 @ 5:57pm
            Harry Jones said | October 20th 2017 @ 5:57pm | ! Report


            NZ made 219 handling errors in the RC; OZ only 141.

            NZ conceded 91 turnovers; OZ only 67.

            That’s intent to risk…

            • October 20th 2017 @ 8:03pm
              sheek said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:03pm | ! Report

              Harry Jones/PK,

              There’s that wonderful saying by Michael Jordan about all the mistakes he made in his career, hundreds of them at critical times.

              But he is remembered as the greatest basketball of all time because despite making so mnany mistakes, he also made so many wonderful, inning plays.

              Just like Campo as well.

              • Roar Guru

                October 20th 2017 @ 8:21pm
                Harry Jones said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:21pm | ! Report

                Unfortunately, gifted playmakers like Willie le Roux, who can open any defence, get pushed away by Saffa coaches who preach dull mistake-free perfection.

              • October 20th 2017 @ 9:09pm
                Fionn said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

                To be fair dull, mistake free perfection won you the 2007 RWC and made you the best team in the world in 2009.

                I agree though, we all need to evolve rather than stay still. Australia and South Africa are currently struggling to do so.

              • Roar Guru

                October 20th 2017 @ 10:46pm
                Harry Jones said | October 20th 2017 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

                Yes, but what the 2007-2009 Boks did was FORCE mistakes by opponents. I know, it’s a nuance. And I get your point.

              • October 20th 2017 @ 10:06pm
                Crash Ball2 said | October 20th 2017 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

                It’s one of my favourite quotes as well Sheek:
                “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

      • Roar Guru

        October 20th 2017 @ 3:54pm
        Ralph said | October 20th 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

        Our motto is. ‘if you aren’t breaking stuff, you aren’t learning anything’.

    • October 20th 2017 @ 8:48am
      Hugo said | October 20th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      Great to revisit that game with you Scott. It’s Hansen who’s pursuing perfection. Cheika is still trying to achieve team competence as your excellent analysis shows. The ABs can strive for perfection, or at least a rating of nine out of ten, because of the wonderfully high quality of their squad. The WBs, on the other hand, have only a handful of players Hansen, or Eddie Jones et al, will have to make adjustments for. As for players receiving (and reacting positively to) negative assessments, it would appear that nothing works for Foley and his errant kicking for the line. Do you suppose he has an unmovable complex of some kind?

      • Roar Guru

        October 20th 2017 @ 9:26am
        PeterK said | October 20th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        AB’s don’t strive for perfection at all.

        Look at every game they have. They drop a fair few passes, they miss a fair number of tackles, they even make some poor kicks.

        The difference is what they attempt to do, at speed with little time available with defence all over them they still attempt to get an offload or pass away (take that risk) and it comes off often and they keep going, they don’t care that the ball gets dropped sometimes or it doesn’t come off.

        If they aimed for perfection they wouldn’t take those risks.

        • October 20th 2017 @ 10:19am
          Akari said | October 20th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

          I’m not so sure, PK. When I 1st arrived in New Delhi I thought I could never ever drive there because of an incredibly chaotic driving and traffic until I got a car. I soon discovered that within the chaos, there was order and you get used to it and thrive. I’d suggest that the ABs similarly see the game slightly differently from us mere mortals. They do what they do because they know they have the skills to do them and can pull them off. It never seems to stop them from trying the impossible again even if it failed the 1st or 2nd time. I can’t say whether they were trying for perfection but it comes pretty close to it.

        • Roar Guru

          October 20th 2017 @ 10:30am
          taylorman said | October 20th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

          youve complicated things a bit more by assuming trying things that may or may not come off constitutes ‘risk’.

          I think the ABs define ‘risk’ in those situations by not trying things. The risk is that if they dont they will lose the opportunity if scoring and therefore, losing.

          So they train to aspire to high skill levels to be able to perform in those moments to mitigate the ‘risk’… the risk of losing the opportunity, not the risk of making a mistake. That is simply a consequence of the action.

        • October 20th 2017 @ 10:45am
          Taylorman said | October 20th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

          Agree that it has nothing to do with a pursuit of perfection though. Its more about achieving an efficiency of the use of time and space…80 minutes and 30 players chasing a ball around a rectangular field.

          Prepare players that are able and prepared to do anything, then insist they maximise every opportunity. Of ten four might pay off, and the more they try things, the better at it they get.

          • October 20th 2017 @ 1:19pm
            Mike Julz said | October 20th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

            You got two Taylorman now. Is this the same person??

            • October 20th 2017 @ 1:26pm
              Taylorman said | October 20th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

              Dont know why it does that, I posted one after the other. ?

              • October 20th 2017 @ 2:05pm
                Mike Julz said | October 20th 2017 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

                Aw yup

        • October 20th 2017 @ 10:47am
          P. Danntick said | October 20th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

          PeterK, you’re right about the way the AB’s (and Kiwi sides generally) deal with play. They also seem to ‘tidy up the crumbs’ when the ball goes loose such that they don’t lose too much advantage from the dropped ball (etc) and minimise the advantage to the opposition.

        • October 20th 2017 @ 1:56pm
          Jerry said | October 20th 2017 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          Striving for perfection doesn’t necessarily mean striving for a perfect stat line, but your point is valid.

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