The Western Force returned from South Africa today after recording one win and one loss on their road trip and their finals hopes are still alive thanks to some surprise results in Super Rugby over the weekend.
There is no doubt that there has been a change on the pitch this year with the team already recording its most wins in a Super Rugby campaign and also its longest winning streak. What is impressive though is not just the way the players handle themselves on the pitch, but their behaviour and demeanour of it.
Talking to fans who made the trip to Cape Town and also to the players themselves, their honesty is refreshing. They admitted that they had a bad day at the office on Saturday night. No excuses whatsoever. There was even an admission that they did not implement the coach’s plans according to one fan who spoke to the players post game. This group of players are in the true sense of the word “a team.” No blame is apportioned it is shared by all. Equally no credit is taken easily by individuals, each player following a good performance is quick to acknowledge the performances of the players around him.
There is no doubt that there is a different culture at the club this year and that was very evident watching the players at the airport and on the aircraft home. In 2006 this writer was fortunate to watch the team play at Ellis Park against the then named Cats. At the baggage carousel the players were throwing bags and behaving inappropriately for ambassadors of their club. Some continued to behave badly on the flight home resulting in complaints from other passengers. When this was raised with the then CEO he made no attempt to apologise for their behaviour and instead attacked the airline. Let us not forget that this was the same man who wanted radio stations to pay for interviews with players in their first season!
The club has come a long way since then and hearing the Crew on board say what a polite group of players the team was and how it was a pleasure having them on board showed that this group are a different breed. Hearing each player thank the crew as they disembarked again showed that these players have respect for those around them. As other passengers approached the players for photographs never was anyone refused.
As the bags came through the coach was on hand to help load all of the extra gear that the team had taken with them, and so too did some of the players lend a hand. These small actions go a long way, and prove that the club is definitely on the right path and those guiding it deserve praise for instilling such behaviours. It may be down to careful recruitment, it maybe down to leadership, but one thing is clear the Western Force are definitely on the right track winning fans with their rugby and also admirers for their conduct.
If they can stay focussed a first finals berth would be a just reward for all their hard work.