How the Lions turned adversity into advantage.

28 May 2024, Tuesday



Most sporting pundits would agree that :

Second is Nothing.

Not so, for the mighty Lions rugby team.




Johann Ackermann, Warren Whitely and their charges can stand proud of their achievements. Down and out of Super rugby just three years back, their story is a sensational one of building a team from bottom up.

The Lions saw change happening in rugby.

They saw change as an opportunity window – and an invitation to reframe Lions rugby

The change I am referring to is the power of the yen, the euro and the pound – luring many players to the lucrative northern hemisphere teams.

But, the cold reality is that:

Money builds neither Culture – nor Character.

After two days at a Lions bosberaad in 2014, the Lions decided not to have a goal of winning Super Rugby.

The team decided two things – they wanted to be the team that plays the most exciting brand of rugby, and secondly they wanted to be an inspiration for their fans in the way they play. Johan Ackermann

The Lions committed to reframing, refocusing and rebuilding a brand.

And the most powerful way to do that is to build Culture – and Character. Ackermann tapped into the magical multiplier effect which kicks in when a Team Brand is optimally aligned with the Personal Brands within the team.

It was important to create the right culture, I made it clear to the guys what my expectation was for those who are going to wear the jersey – there must be a caring culture for each other, I need to be ready to give, not just to receive. Johan Ackermann.

The Lions took the opportunity gap created when the stronger unions started to lose key players to the northern hemisphere.

The very opposite was happening at the Lions.

Many of their players were fuelled by having tasted adversity through rejection. Rejection became their advantage. It built them stronger as humble grateful individuals – with a burning desire to make things work – when given the opportunity by Ackermann.

Adversity was the breeding ground for all growth going forward .

Charting a new course with the right structures in place, culture and character combined to allow the Lions the freedom to execute an expressionist playing culture.

But, it’s something that does not come easy, unless the right groundwork is done.

Branding, both Team and Personal, are key to driving sustained success and significance in sport, business and life.

The Lions knew that they wanted it more – playing with promise and purpose.

Culture and Character create the momentum for the all important  C’s –  which any champion team needs to gain traction:

Confidence , Courage ,Consistency , Capability ,Certainty , Control , Concentration , Commitment , Challenge ,Creativity.

Jaco_Kriel50Johan Ackermann may not have Super Rugby silverware in his cabinet as yet, but he has the game plan to do so.

For now, his reward is knowing that his team has set out to do what they said they will do – inspired their fans in the way they play – and captured more than a few hearts.



They have Entertained , Educated, Enriched – and filled Emirates seats.

And collected 9 Springbok caps.

What better way to reach the next level, than to turn your adversity into your advantage.

Go Lions.

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it a seed of equivalent benefit: Napoleon Hill


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Rob Opie is a Brand Strategist, Speaker, Author and leading Performance Coach to Business executives, Corporate teams, Sports teams and Individuals. His game-changing “The Game Plan Method” methodology, derived from the great champions of business, sport and life – is creating stories of sustained success and significance across South Africa.

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