“The most experienced #Springboks team ever will line up for the #RWC2023 final against New Zealand in Paris on Saturday…” announced the Springboks on X on Thursday this week. While the so-called cloak and dagger approach of the South African coaching team is often debated, choosing such an accomplished fifteen seems like the obvious thing to do when playing the All Blacks in what is the most important game every four years. But how important is experience in general and does it not take away from fresh initiative or youthful energy and exuberance?
On Saturday, halfbacks Handré Pollard and Faf de Klerk will be starting as a pair for the 25th time – the most experienced in Springbok history. Ten of the players also started in the 2019 RWC final, with only two forwards, Mostert and Kitshoff, who did not run out as part of the starting fifteen four years ago. The team’s combined total Springbok caps are 987! (Read more) With two thirds of the squad playing in their second world cup for South Africa, it is almost impossible not to choose an experienced team, despite the important contributions made by newer players such as Libbok, Klein and Moodie. But is prioritising experience the ideal in a business and work environment too? What about fresh ways of thinking and that general sense of energy that often come with young recruits?
What is the value of experience? I think the most important realisation here is that experience does not imply a lack of energy and enthusiasm. Being experienced enough to recognise challenges in what seems to be an exciting proposal, might make you look less enthusiastic, but it will save time, effort and money and is invaluable as it allows for more accurate decisions in uncertain situations. At the same time, however, those with experience can appear to be disenchanted. Experience can be a brilliant guide, but it shouldn’t be a killjoy. Experience should also stay relevant. Having in-depth knowledge of a discipline that is not practiced anymore, makes it irrelevant.
Although enthusiasm and exuberance don’t necessarily imply a lack of experience, even when they do, they are wonderful attributes. They imply energy, bring optimism to the workplace and they challenge tried and tested ideas. Is it easier for those with enthusiasm to gain experience than what it is for those who have become blasé to get excited again? Perhaps!
The ideal is, however, a combination of the two – even if it is not necessarily within one individual. Experience without energy and enthusiasm might make you last longer, but it will just postpone the inevitable as you run the risk of becoming boring or irrelevant. Exuberance without experience might be a more exciting ride, but it might also have you nosedive without the necessary guidance.
We’ve seen what happens when experience, energy and enthusiasm combine in the likes of Kolbe, Etzebeth and Kolisi. It is a winning combination. Sometimes the combination is in a team rather than an individual. The experience might be in the coaching or mentoring and the enthusiasm in the youthful optimism of a fit new player or fresh young employee. Regardless of the discipline or platform, sport or business, both experience and enthusiasm are important. What is required for both, however, is an open mind and a willingness to explore and learn.
We are often required to retire just when we have the most experience and while that feels a bit silly, it forces an opportunity for others. I believe in mentorship and guidance, and I love an energetic and optimistic approach. While I hope I’ll never get too experienced to try new things, I also hope that there will always be a place for me to share what I’ve learned over the years.