2nd Jun 2021
As players, we challenge one another to get better, and I can learn a lot from all the players in our team. Team always first.
Q1: Our team currently has a good mix of young guys and more senior guys. Does the fact that there are quite a few senior guys help with taking on a leadership role?
COURTNALL SKOSAN: The way I see leadership is action. It definitely helps when you’ve played similar situations over and over, and I guess that is why experience plays such a big role in any team environment. We have a few good leaders and good experienced players in almost every position, which makes it easier for each and every one of us to feed from each other and learn/grow as a whole.
BURGER ODENDAAL: I believe we have a good mix between youngsters and more experienced guys. It definitely helps to have guys that have seen it all before, they know how to control and react to almost any situation and everyone can learn from them.
STI SITHOLE: Yes, it does. The fact that there are so many senior guys within the team means that the leadership duties are distributed between the guys and the load does not just fall onto one or two certain individuals in the team.
WILLEM ALBERTS: Yes, we have great mix of young and senior guys here. I think the leadership comes naturally for most of the senior players. We try to take on that leadership role, and put the team first, but there are also a lot of the younger guys who are showing great leadership and that is going to be great for the team.
Q2: The captain has changed twice in the Rainbow Cup, and this has even happened during matches. Does the switch between captains come easy?
DAN KRIEL: I don’t think that the change in captaincy is a factor in the team. I actually feel that it is incredible that there are so many of us who are able to represent the Lions as Captain. For me it is an easy switch.
COURTNALL SKOSAN: We have a group of leaders in our squad, which makes things a bit easier with regards to captaincy. We back them and know that on any given day they will be able to lead us and take us forward.
STI SITHOLE: For me personally, this has come very easily. Within the team there are a few guys who are able to fill this role, and as a group we are very comfortable with all of them, so when the change comes, it doesn’t cause any disruption.
WILLEM ALBERTS: Captaincy can change a lot during the season, and coach Cash is working with some of his senior players to fill this roll for us right now. Unfortunately, we have had a couple of injuries which have changed the captain as well this season, but I think we have great captains within our team. This also makes the switch between who will wear that hat so easy, because there is a lot of trust between the senior players.
Q3: As one of the senior players in the group, how do you keep yourself and everyone else accountable (senior and junior) during the week on and off the field?
DAN KRIEL: We have really healthy competition in each and every position which makes players push one another to become better. As a professional sportsman you’re always working to be the best and everyone is on the same page in that regard. Having players like Jannie (du Plessis) and Willem (Alberts) who have enormous amounts of experience helps the team out a lot. They really lead by example on and off the field.
COURTNALL SKOSAN: Personally I am very hard on myself and strive for excellence every day. I might not always hit my mark, but I’m always honest with myself. The same goes for the relationship I have with my teammates. Accountability goes both ways. We serve each other and it should never be a problem for any one member of our squad to be held accountable and maintaining the standard we all collectively strive for.
BURGER ODENDAAL: Keeping myself accountable is quite easy. I am very hard on myself and kind of a perfectionist. I think we try as a team to keep one another accountable for our actions, the slogan for our season is Team First, so all our actions have to be so that the team come first. No one wants to let the team down.
STI SITHOLE: To keep myself accountable, I tend to focus on my own recovery and make sure I do proper analysis. I also pay attention to all the details of my game plan and the game plan of the team. The team has certain standards that we have set out for ourselves, and I feel that we all keep ourselves accountable within those standards.
WILLEM ALBERTS: As one of the senior players I always try and lead by example, to make sure you know what the detail is, and you do the homework on the game. You make sure you prepare so that you can do what is needed from you on and off the field.
Q4: Difficult decisions need to be made on the field during the game. These are often high-pressure situations – how do you go about relying on your team for guidance in these situations and do the senior group manage to give input?
DAN KRIEL: We have a group called “the Drivers” which is made up of certain positions and players. These players play an important part in the decisions that are made in order for the best outcome for the team.
COURTNALL SKOSAN: We have clear direction going into a weekend’s game and make sure we cover all our bases for any possible scenarios. I am very confident in the decision makers in our team and I back them. If needed, I would give my input, as I’m always looking to serve the team in any possible way. Whatever makes the boat go faster.
BURGER ODENDAAL: It is a difficult thing because it can always be a right or wrong decision that is made. I try to get as much info as possible from the players around me and in specific positions to help me with making a call.
WILLEM ALBERTS: There are some difficult situations on the field for the captain, especially with the newly added captain’s challenge. I think the captain relies on the guys around them to guide them to the correct decision in the moment. The senior players, through experience, know when to give input and when to help the captain with a couple of guiding words in certain situations.
Q5: You are part of the core senior group. Do you feel it helps the captain of the week knowing he can tap into this wealth of experience around him, and how does it work in practice? In other words, explain to us how a week would go. Does this senior group meet separately, and do they step up during team meetings?
DAN KRIEL: Yes certainly. We have a great leadership group, and we learn from one another daily. We meet most days where discuss our game plan and solutions for the upcoming games.
COURTNALL SKOSAN: We have core groups for the different departments of the game and will give our inputs together with the coaches’ guidance in preparation for games. Like I said, we are clear on directions going into a weekend, from the coaches, to the players. Everyone is on the same page. It’s just about keeping that energy and making the right decisions at the right times. We simulate this in training and make adjustments where needed.
BURGER ODENDAAL: As you mentioned we really have a wealth of experience with the seniors that we have in our squad. And as I stated earlier, guys like Willem and Jannie have seen it all on the rugby pitch, so yes it helps extremely having them to help us as a team and give input when it’s needed. We do have a “leadership” group but it is a mix of youngsters and more senior players. And it is not only members of that group that step up during meetings, these players mostly try to drive what we want to do as a team.
WILLEM ALBERTS: Yes, I think it helps the captain a lot when he knows he can trust the senior guys around him and that there are experienced players around him which can help guide him on and off the field. There are certain meetings during the week, we call them Drivers Meetings, where most of the decision makers – senior players and coaches – meet to make sure that we drive the team in the right direction. The senior players also have input during team meetings.
Q6: Tell us a bit about the culture at the Lions – how does this allow for you to grow into a better player and leader?
DAN KRIEL: The Lions culture is great. We firmly believe in that Team comes First. We all want everyone to the best version of ourselves as a person and as player. This is where I feel the Lions have always been a step ahead of other Unions. Players are given the freedom to express themselves off and on the field.
BURGER ODENDAAL: We are a “young” team that are working hard to inspire one another, our families, and people on the outside, and honouring God as we do it. As players, we challenge one another to get better and I can learn a lot from all the players in our team. Team always first.
STI SITHOLE: At the Lions we believe that in everything we do here, we have to do it with the mindset of Team First. This means that while you have individual ownership of a lot of things, everything you do needs to be in service of the team. We are also given a lot of freedom on and off the field to thrive in the team environment.
Q7: What advice would you give your younger self today (as a player) if you had the opportunity?
DAN KRIEL: I would say hard work always wins. What you put in is what you get out. Also listening to understand what coaches say. A lot of the time as a youngster you listen, but you don’t understand a thing that has been said or coached. And lastly to ask more questions. There are no silly questions. If you are learning, that means you are growing as a player and a person.
COURTNALL SKOSAN: Enjoy the little moments. Celebrate your/team’s victories. Be there for your brothers(teammates) & appreciate the support you have to do what you love. And most of all believe in the talent God has blessed you with. Be grateful.
BURGER ODENDAAL: Never take anything for granted. I think Covid has changed things massively around the world. In these times I have just once again realised that there is a bigger picture and that the small things matter. Never stop dreaming.
STI SITHOLE: Always put in the extra work, it will pay off in the end. Also, focus more on your core positional skills and take extra care of your recovery. When you are young you take these things for granted, but they are things that catches up to you later in life.
WILLEM ALBERTS: Take ownership of your position and take leadership in your position. Make sure you do what you expect of a leader to do and try to learn as much from the senior players around you. Always put your team first, and that you are willing to put in more for your team than you would expect them to do for you.