Former UCT Ikeys coach Kevin Musikanth believes that ability to adapt is a key component in rugby. Photo: Kevin Musikanth on facebook
Former UCT Ikeys coach Kevin Musikanth believes that ability to adapt is a key component in rugby. Photo: Kevin Musikanth on facebook

'Magic' yes please... but discipline nurtures rugby - UCT mentor Musikanth

By Wynona Louw Time of article published Jun 1, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – With South Africa moving to level three of the nationwide lockdown, quite a few things are going to change, and if there’s one thing that you can relate to rugby in that sense, it’s change, and how you adapt.

For former UCT Ikeys coach Kevin Musikanth, that ability to adapt is a key component in rugby. That, and character. To him, that’s what makes the sport so special. And if you had to ask him if he reckons any other sport can build character the way rugby does, you’d probably get a resounding ‘no’. The way rugby moulds character is unique, it’s what sets the sport apart (you’d probably get an answer closer to this one).

Discipline, he feels, is one of the biggest character traits rugby nurtures, and if you had to look at a list of requirements to succeed in the sport - at any level - ‘discipline’ would likely be marked in bold red right at the top of that list. And for good reason, Musikanth reckons.

“Rugby puts you in situations where you have to find a way to overcome it. There’s a specialness in the discipline that rugby grows.

“For one of our jersey handouts at UCT we told the guys to bring or do something that resembles who they are and what they want to do at UCT. The theme was ‘tell me your story and everything you were before this point’. This was cleverly championed by performance coach Tom Dawson Squibb before a competition-defining pool match against Shimlas.

“We had a guy, a backline player, but he looked like a forward, as he had put on every single jersey he had worn from every team he played in, with the last one closest to his chest being that of our team, UCT, so his message was ‘this is where I am right here, right now’. Another guy, also a backline player, came with only a pillow, that’s all. This player never really said much, so everyone started to laugh and cheer when he started talking during the session."

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When they all had settled he said he was very skeptical about coming to UCT, he was worried about being accepted and that he may leave, but he brought his pillow as he has now decided to stay." Everyone jumped up cheered and hugged him. 

"This is a great example of the character that rugby can bring out in people and, as a consequence, a team."

While character and, by extension, discipline, is important in the sport, it needs to be facilitated as well, it needs to be encouraged to grow. And the type of environment coaches or any leaders of a team go about this is massive. You’re not just dealing with players as athletes, you have to connect with them as people as well, Musikanth believes, and that philosophy would no doubt have been a big part of the reason why he managed to coach UCT to Varsity Cup glory and win that final in 2014. After all, few examples can describe ‘character’ quite like that performance in Potchefstroom did.

How players perform, the effort they put in, how they work for the team, all of that has a lot to do with the coach.

“Coaches often do this, not all the time, but often. Practice would start at six and go until about 8, now you’re having a bad practice and you get to the last 10 minutes of training and the guys are making mistakes. Now the question is, if you go over 8, are you practicing for you or are you practicing for the team? Are you practicing so that you can feel better as a coach when you go home because they finally got right what you wanted them to get right or are you doing it for the team?

“For me, practice has got to end at time it’s supposed to. You don’t extend practice, you end on those mistakes, that’s the way I look at it. Say for example your flyhalf has arranged to take his fiancé out for supper at half past eight, now training practice goes on past eight. That player can’t leave practice and he can’t come to you and say ‘coach, you said practice was going to end at eight, now you’re keeping us here until half past eight’, because there’s a knock-on effect with everything you do as a coach or a leader.

“Coaches can often hide behind saying "winning is not important, I’m just trying to make the team better’. But how come some coaches win 70 percent of their games or more, very few do, but what do these coaches do compared to the guys who only win 50 percent or lower? Are they very structured, are they flamboyant? I don’t know the answer to that but coaches should look to see if there are similarities in those types of coaches and how they approach preparing for tournaments.

“In the end, when you run onto the field as a team you have got an equal chance to win and to lose, it really is a 50-50. 

“As a coach, doing the right thing won’t necessarily make your team win, but doing the wrong thing could really make your team lose. Experience really does count. This I think is the beauty and character of rugby, that 50-50 every time you run onto the field. 

It's definitely the rush that keeps us coaches coming back for more..."



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