All Blacks captain Richie McCaw "swept the shed" after his team retained the famous Trans-Tasman cup. Picture: Nigel Marple
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw "swept the shed" after his team retained the famous Trans-Tasman cup. Picture: Nigel Marple

All Blacks show the true value of humility

By Murray Williams Time of article published Aug 17, 2015

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Humility is core to the All Black’s culture, and “sweeping the sheds” after each game is a physical act of this, writes Murray Williams.

On Saturday, the headlines rang out: “Wallabies smashed by All Blacks as Richie McCaw is farewelled a winner”. This continued the All Blacks’ run as “statistically the most successful sporting team in human history”, as once described by The Telegraph .

“New Zealand’s win rate over the past 100 years is over 75 percent.

“It’s a phenomenal record, an achievement matched by no other elite team, in any code.”

Not only had the All Blacks retained the famous Trans-Tasman cup on Saturday, but McCaw left the field as the most-capped player in Test history, with 142.

What astonishing pride he must have felt. And what did McCaw do post-match? He “swept the shed”. Literally. He and one or two of the other most senior players swept and tidied the team locker room. As they did after every game in the All Black team – win or lose.

The writer James Kerr explained: “Back in 2004, something was wrong.

“The 2003 World Cup had gone badly… senior All Blacks were threatening to leave… discipline was drunk and disorderly… and the All Blacks were losing. In response, a new management team under Graham Henry began to rebuild the world’s most successful sporting team from the inside out.”

Henry convened what he now apparently calls “the most important meeting of my life”, which resulted in a new mantra: “Better People Make Better All Blacks.”

The result? A new win rate of 86%, in the years which followed.

And at the core of this new culture was humility – now a cardinal All Blacks value.

“Though it may seem strange for a team of imperious dominance, humility is core to their culture.

“The All Blacks believe it is impossible to achieve stratospheric success without having your feet planted firmly on the ground,” Kerr explained.

Kerr reported the All Blacks “select on character as well as talent”.

And “sweeping the sheds”, personally tidying up the locker room after each game is a physical act of this.

Instead of clutching the champagne bottle, they grab a broom. Humility.

And Kerr concluded: “Better people make better All Blacks – but also they make better doctors and lawyers, bankers and businessmen, fathers, brothers and friends.”

Indeed. Or is that too soppy, clichéd?

Perhaps. But no.

Even in the hard-nosed world of supposed intellect and fact, individuals are stunted, or swiftly regress, without humility.

For without humility, they lose all sight of “what they do not know”.

And “knowing what I do not know” is the ultimate foundation of all wisdom and understanding.

At least, the Greek philosopher Socrates believed so: (But those without humility would simply not understand… )

* Murray Williams’ column ’Shooting from the Lip’ appears in the Cape Argus every Monday.

Cape Argus

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