Turning Weakness into Strength - The All Blacks

For the third time, the All Blacks are the Rugby Union World Champions, with their 34-17 victory over Australia. This was a clash between the two best teams in the tournament, played amid great mutual respect, and despite the fierce rivalry, the final was played in tremendous spirit. After the game was over, it was great to see the All Blacks and the Wallabies embracing each other.

New Zealand held off a fierce Australian comeback to win a thrilling game and become the first team to retain their title. Wonderful tries from Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma'a Nonu gave the All Blacks a 21-3 lead early in the second half before David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani struck back.

When replacement Beauden Barrett sprinted away on to Ben Smith's clearing kick in the final minutes, history was made. The achievement is a fitting farewell to their cohorts of retiring greats. They have been the outstanding side of this generation, and once again found a way to win when it mattered most.

Carter was outstanding from the outset, under a ferocious Wallaby assault, landing 19 points from his immaculate kicking, as they were tested to the limit. His first curling over a testing penalty from out wide for 3-0 before Bernard Foley's simpler effort levelled it up, set the scene for a man-of-the-match performance.

Ma'a Nonu's fine try looked to have put the All Blacks out of sight, but the Wallabies came back, but after missing the 2011 World Cup final through injury, this was the perfect ending for world rugby's most perfect 10. Carter could not dream of a better finale to his 12-year, 112-cap All Black career, and few would deny him the moment.

Carter, who is of Māori descent, has played since the age of five in the fly-half role, starting with Southbridge Rugby Club in the South Island of New Zealand. His great uncle was Canterbury and New Zealand half back Bill Dalley, a member of the 1924–25 Invincibles. On 16 November 2013, Carter became the fifth All Black to gain 100 caps.

He has a World Cup winner's medal from 2011, but it was a consolation, his injury in the pool stages turned him into water-carrier in the knock-out stages. This time he would not be denied. His peerless place kicking had helped establish the 21-3 lead which seemed to have secured the world title once again. When the Wallabies turned that around in eleven second-half minutes with Ben Smith off for a tallow card, his boot then took it back.

Forty metres out, a drop goal struck with a precision, then, five minutes later, a penalty from further out still. That he converted Beauden Barrett's breakaway try at the death.

Carter is surely the finest fly-half the world has seen, and not just for his scoring prowess, he also made more tackles than any other player from either side in the final too.

As the fireworks exploded into the Twickenham there could be only celebration - of a team like no other, of a group of players who have made excellence seem easy, but also for one of the all-time greats.

With 15 minutes to go there were just four points in it, but a nerveless long-distance drop-goal and penalty from Carter snatched back control. This was his game, in a team of champions. Close up shots as he prepared to take his kicks, under pressure like we can’t imagine, showed a calmness in his face and a determination in his brown eyes, an inner belief and resolution. You just knew that he was going to knock those kicks over.

Success is most often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable. Believe you can and you're halfway there, as the saying goes. The worst enemy to Carter on the field would have been his own self-doubt, but I recall an interview once where he said, I do not believe in taking the right decision on my kicking, I take a decision and make the kick right.

So what gives Carter this self-starter attitude and  self-belief, what is the framework for his mental toughness and inner confidence?

Belief in self: First and foremost, Carter simply believes in his abilities and strengths. He believes he can make great things happen. I’ve never met a successful person with low self-esteem.  Self-belief is vital, how many things have you not done or tried because you lacked belief in yourself? As Eleanor Roosevelt so deftly put it: Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Belief in beating the odds: To be successful, we have to be open minded, with no sense of what you cannot do. But, bit-by-bit, life starts to teach you to limit yourself. Carter doesn’t hope he can beat the odds on 40m penalties, he believes wholeheartedly that he will.  There is no second-guessing.  As they say, those who say they can and those that say they can’t are both right.  If you don’t believe you can beat the odds – chances are you won’t.

Belief to deal with the inner negative voice: When you start to doubt yourself listen for a moment to that negative inner voice. Whose voice is it really? It’s often a collection of lots of different voices from different times and people from your past that causes self-belief to wane. One thing's for sure, that inner self-critical voice shouldn't be yours. It may masquerade as belonging to you now, but it doesn't really. One of the first steps is to re-examine and discard many of the limiting ideas you have about yourself, ideas that you've somehow collected along the way. Get rid of the baggage!

Belief in flipping a weakness into strength: Dumbo, my favourite cartoon character, was humiliated by his outsize ears. He hated them at first. But, through time, he came to use them, to fulfil his destiny, even changing his attitude. Like Dumbo, if we just focus on what is not right about ourselves rather than what is, then we miss opportunities for self-belief. Focusing on perceived weaknesses without either taking steps to improve them or also giving fair focus toward our strengths gets us nowhere. Know that the positive flipside of a weakness, in the right context, can be put to good use.

Belief in perseverance: This is a big attribute of Carter’s down the years. The obstacles that cause many people to quit are minor setbacks for the true champion – missing out on 2011 was his motivation. Winners persist, losers desist. It is often that simple difference in self-belief that separates the successful person from the frustrated failure.

Belief in the vision: For Carter, his vision was bigger than just the winning. It was a vision of being part of a champion All Blacks team. It was never about his personal success, but being part of a collective team. His self-belief got him into the team, his self-belief helped him be part of a winning team.  

Life has a unique perspective. Along the way, various landing pages, trials and tribulations will offer themselves up. It’s self-belief that determines your direction and ultimately success – its not how often you’re knocked over but how many times you get up that makes the difference.

As Dr Seuss said, You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, and with self-belief, steer yourself any direction you choose.

 

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