Where are the spare parts?

“Failing to plan is akin to planning to fail” said some bright spark a while back, and after a trip to Zimbabwe where the lack of planning is laid bare, Tank sees that as the difference between in Bok rugby between 2016 and now …

Tank Lanning

I’ve just spent the most marvellous week fishing, eating and drinking on a fully staffed three story houseboat cruising the truly magnificent, and truly monstrous, Kariba dam in Zimbabwe.

Bucket list stuff. And as a bonus, I got to miss the Boks trotting out in that awful red jersey. But that is a story for another day.

Today’s story is around the road one has to travel in order to get to Kariba. It’s only 289km from Harare to the Kariba turnoff, yet that takes over four hours, and you do it in a normal sedan at your peril. The potholes are Cango Cave like, and the road shoulders non-existent.

Yet it is the main drag up the heart of Africa so monster pantechnicons laden with all kinds of things are plentiful. Getting past them is as hard as finding the fuel needed to do so.

And along the way, there are a few beautiful farms in full production mode, showcasing the potential of the country. But my abiding memory will be my host pointing out the vast tracts of burnt and barren land that used to be great farms.

Africa burns …

“What’s gone wrong?” I asked while pondering the burnt farm houses and relics of restaurants past that once flourished on a tourist laden path to the beauty of Kariba.

He took a while to ponder the question, then reverted with something thought provoking:

“There are no spare parts.”

Of course Robert Mugabe and his self-serving excuse for a government have played there part in destroying a once magnificent country through mismanagement and corruption, but at it’s heart lies one of the fundamental issues – no planning.

It’s about the now, with zero thought to what happens if now goes wrong. Hence the collapse of the country’s infrastructure and financial system.

“Failing to plan is akin to planning to fail” said some bright spark a while back, but it was a saying first brought to my attention by my then Ikeys coach, Alan Solomons, a man who went on to coach the Stormers and enjoy much coaching success in Europe.

Sure you want players to be able to “Play the situation”, but as with life, planning equips one to not only handle a particular situation better, but also handle the multiple situations likely to present themselves.

You need spare parts!

What happens when the team you are playing against opts to change it’s game plan from driving and mauling it up the guts, to kicking from 12 and chasing like mad? Or what happens when your star flyhalf, the man who calls all your backline plays, goes down in a heap in minute three?

You need spare parts!

One of the fundamental differences between Springbok rugby in 2016 and Springbok rugby in 2017, is the addition of spare parts via a proper planning process. And I think Jake White gets it spot on in his column suggesting that coach Allister Coetzee, who copped a lot of flak when things were going downhill and, now deserves the credit given that the team has turned around.

The obvious spare parts are the new assistant coaches. Whenever a head coach brings in an outside consultant and it works, the consultant gets all the credit, but as Jake rightly points out: “People forget that it takes a head coach to put that all together.”

The other was the naming of Warren Whiteley as skipper, with further proof of a better planning process bearing fruit being the continued success in the opening games of the Rugby Champs, despite the Boks having lost this great leader of men to injury.

I am not convinced that every single spare part is in place just yet, but the Boks have certainly moved on from planning to fail through a complete lack of planning.

Bring on the All Blacks!