Technology 01-11-2019 0

The Springboks are tech-ing their game to the opposition

It’s the 16th of September 2017, and the whole country is in disbelief. The mood is pretty kak and investor sentiment has taken a serious knock. Yes, you’ve guessed it. The All Blacks just embarrassed the Springboks by 57 ‘how your fathers’ to 0.

Who would have believed that just around the corner from that solemn day that we would have a Rugby Championship under our belt and have booked a spot in the 2019 World Cup final? Not me!

(If you’re reading this after the 2nd of November, I hope the boys delivered!)

Well, what changed?

A lot of people might think they know the answer to this question and shout out “Duh! The coaches changed!” But the most interesting factor which breathed new life into the Springbok powerhouse was the introduction of the latest technology. So yes, the coaches had changed, but Rassie now also has the aid of technology allowing him to make far more calculated decisions towards his strategy.

Beforehand, there was a general consensus to rebrand the style of rugby played in South Africa moving from the traditional strengths of physicality and kicking to a more expansive style of rugby. The pressure came from surface-level analytics whereby there was global migration towards a more expansive style – leaving the Springboks looking as though they weren’t evolving with the demands of modern rugby. During this period, the Springboks had numerous results for the record books…against them.

The Springboks then partnered with Microsoft who have built software solutions around a few key areas. One of which is the analytics tool called Stratus Reporting Engine. This powerful software has collected 40 million data points from past games. Combine that with the tool’s cream of the crop data science component, and the Springbok technical coaches are smiling with never seen before insights.

We use simulation software to see what upcoming matches would look like. We use that software to analyse player positions for things like identifying the weakest defender so you can get your best attacker to exploit that. After every game, every player gets to know about the stats on how they performed in a game: how many tackles they have made, how many shots they have made and how many kilometres they have run. Technology is helping us to plan better for matches.” – Rassie Erasmus

Interestingly, since the introduction of this tech in March 2019, the game plan has moved away from the expansive game and has allowed the Springboks to focus on their traditional strengths; physicality, structure and kicking, where they have a competitive advantage. With deeper insights and perfect information, they can now refine and modify this approach to pinpoint the specifics to execute on.

I agree that you can’t fully credit Microsoft as the sole reason for the Springbok resurgence – there is still coaching, player ability, analysis interpretations and team selection as factors. However, the tech has provided all members from the coaching staff to the last player named on the bench with enough information to do their specific job with far more accuracy- both in preparation and on game-day.

What the tech?!

I’m sure you’re pretty impressed right now that EVEN the Springboks have walked this journey of digital transformation. Who would of thought that you can digitally transform a sport that has been around for centuries? Well, the lesson here is that there is no industry or business which tech cannot drastically improve.

In today’s world, business is very uncertain. You can work extremely hard and reap no rewards, whilst your mate is coasting along and enjoying far too much success. But imagine if you could know that by focusing on a few aspects of your business that you would be guaranteed a certain set of results. The keys to achieving this is access to information and then using tech to focus on the things that actually count. In this way your business can benefit from tech in the same fashion which the Springboks have.

But what if you don’t understand the tech? Or even know how to begin using it? The good news is that you don’t have to if you partner with the right people.

Let’s break down the Springbok-Microsoft partnership to highlight what you need to focus on.  The Springboks identified what they are strong at (and that is obviously rugby). But analytics on the other hand, although being a big part of modern professional sport, is not one of the team’s strengths, let’s be honest. So rather than trying to push through in an area that they aren’t proficient in, they joined forces with the best in the business, Microsoft, to build solutions to do their analytics for them. This allows the Springboks to use the information to focus purely on rugby while Microsoft take care of the rest, saving the Springboks time and energy on the stuff which aren’t there primary strengths.

Therefore, you need to identify what your primary strength is, then identify the factors which would make you even better at that strength should you have near perfect information. Then look for a collaborative partner whose primary strength is that specific factor you need, so not only can you focus solely at what you’re good at, but you also have an improved platform to do it.


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