The bookmakers have spoken and South Africa have been installed as 3-1 on favourites for the World Cup Final. Unbeaten in the tournament, 36-0 victors over England in the group game and beating Argentina in the semi’s with plenty to spare. Surely they justify the status of favourites?
On paper – yes. But this is the World Cup Final. And England are the holders. And now the holders have discovered a way of playing that suits them. This is a team who will relish the status of underdogs.
They may be favourites, but will South Africa be able to match England’s levels of belief? Belief that comes from being World Champions. Belief that comes from having players next to you who know how to win the World Cup. Belief that comes from having Johnny Wilkinson in your side. Belief that comes from turning over Australia and then France in their back yard.
To win at the highest level requires more than ordinary levels of belief. Every cell in your body must hold the belief. In you. And in the person next to you. A belief that simply doesn’t countenance defeat. That will not accept it. Under no circumstances.
It’s a belief that kicks in when the going gets tough. Very tough. Under extreme pressure, ordinary belief will accept a runners-up medal. Accept being part of a great occasion. Accept taking part. But not the belief being spoken of here.
That belief knows only committing the most supreme effort in search of the outcome that you want. Ordinary belief hopesthat you will win. The beliefs of champions is the belief that has personally decided that you are going to win. No other outcome is acceptable. When these levels of belief are at play in each and every team-member, then form simply cannot influence the outcome. The game is decided in the mind.
South Africa may be odds-on favourites. But are they favourites on the levels of true belief? Saturday will tell us if they have passed the ultimate mental challenge.