Why the Japanese David was always likely to beat SA’s Goliath

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Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book, David and Goliath, explains quite logically that despite the apparent mismatch, the little shepherd herd boy with the sling was always going to win that fight. Goliath, the 6 foot 9 inch giant, was afflicted with acromegaly, a benign tumour on the pituitary gland that promotes growth but badly affects vision. He never even saw those high velocity pebbles that cut him down – hardly a fair fight, was it?

The Springbok defeat over the weekend to rugby minnows Japan had shades of David and Goliath. With hindsight, the guys in green and gold were ripe for the plucking.

A few weeks ago, a group of the black players publicly complained to Cosatu about not getting enough game time. And a number of those who lined-up on Saturday are either out of form or returning from injury. Hardly what builds cohesion in what is, critically, a team sport.

Last week John Smit told a presentation in London the key ingredient in the Springbok 2007 World Cup victory was because “the Afrikaners, Coloured, Blacks and English guys all pulled together into a team.” That, he said, made them unbeatable.

Hopefully the Japanese defeat will galvanise the Springboks into pulling together. Smit says South Africans are best when they have their backs to the wall. After the weekend’s shock, that theory is about to be put to the test.

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