Change Unmanaged: South Africans and that Jersey - [website] Email Print
Published: 18th of Sep 2023 by: Debbie Engelbrecht

Being September 2023, the Rugby World Cup is big news. Sporting fans from around the world are excited and making plans to watch their favourite teams play. That team for me? Definitely the Springboks! But there has been a recent change to our beloved team in green and gold... A change that was not well managed, to say the least.

Lets talk about change management. And what a better example to choose right now than the new away game gear the Boks are sporting. From what has been reported, these jerseys have been designed and chosen as a result of the World Rugby policy to cater for fans, players, and even match officials with colour vision deficiency, commonly known as colour blindness.

Unfortunately, the gear is not going down well with most of the South African fans and I cannot help but think that some huge opportunities have been missed. And most of all, a global opportunity to recruit millions of young girls and boys to this game so many of us enjoy.

Firstly from a stakeholder or sponsor perspective, I do have to ask... Who are the official sponsors of the Bok team? Fact: Checkers 60/Sixty is not an official sponsor. Thus, possible stakeholders overlooked in this decision making. (By the way, have you seen their response to the commentry from fans? It's worth a watch and we love their humourous take on it!)

Secondly from a SA Rugby branding viewpoint, there are but 3 requirements for a Bok supporter, green, gold and a springbok emblem. Thus, a branding fail.

Thirdly from a long term merchandising perspective... The gear is not going down well with the South African fans.

So who made the decision about this design and if they were hell bent on the design itself and in favour of rebranding for all international teams by 2025, should they not have introduced the change in a more client friendly manner?

Yes, we are their clients.

Sport is a huge money spinner and with our support on or off field, we are paying for the privilege of seeing our teams in action. Just the most obvious ways are either direct ticket purchase or indirectly through paid TV channels (who in turn pay for the broadcasting right) But, we remain the paying clients...

Whoever made this decision has, in my mind, caused a whole lot of confusion where no confusion was necessary. If you are going to take something as huge as a team's national colours and change it, surely when that change happens it needs to be for the better, if not work harder until you can do better.

Did this change do anything that fostered even stronger unity for your loyal supporters and clients?

When it comes to the new design and colour of the jerseys- Was there any kind of survey or introduction to the change?' Was there any kind of collaboration and inclusivity regarding this change? Was there any kind of perspective given as to the design and colour choice? (except for the reasoning of being more inclusive as mentioned above) Was there any kind of bigger picture involved that lead to this specific decision being made?

I dont know. I may have missed an entire campaign somewhere...

A campaign that had millions of die hard fans involved in some sort of collaboration or design competition, where a survey was done as to what the absolute essentials are to keep the brand strong whilst still adhering to the new requirements, possibly even where the last two designs were up for public opinion or debate, you know even with schools and less privileged teams gaining from some kind of easy input and getting behind the new design. The kind of thing you really want to do when you care about your clients.

Now we have an entire nation struggling to differentiate between their soon to be 4th time Web Ellis heroes and the local grocery deliver store...

© Debbie Engelbrecht 2023

Debbie is the MD at Staff Training, providing soft skills and leadership training for South Africans since 2000. Should you wish for Staff Training to put together an annual training package for you, please email

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