Match referee Mathieu Raynal shows a yellow card to Australia's lock Adam Coleman during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool D match on October 5 2019. Picture: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP
Match referee Mathieu Raynal shows a yellow card to Australia's lock Adam Coleman during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool D match on October 5 2019. Picture: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP

Don’t think of it as a lockdown. Think of it as a timeout.

That is the sage advice from mental coach Dr Jannie Putter and which is applicable not just to SA’s Super Rugby teams while Covid-19 wreaks havoc‚ but to the population at large.

Putter‚ who ended a five-year association with the Lions in 2019,  is now in his second year with Orlando Pirates. He believes the term lockdown conjures negative thoughts. Negativity‚ especially in a team environment‚ can be like a virus.

“Lockdown in your mind is a negative word. You think you’re confined‚ restricted and a victim of the situation. The moment you do that you start thinking like a victim because now you can start sleeping in because you can’t do anything and no-one is checking‚” he said.

“I have stressed this is not a lockdown but a timeout. In sport, the term timeout is used as an opportunity to regroup‚ refocus‚ reset and recover.

“This period we can see as a timeout. We don’t know how long it will last. That doesn’t matter. The question is how you are spending your time now. Let’s get back to basics‚ values and self.”

Putter believes that while Super Rugby is in limbo the players’ biggest challenge is self-discipline.

“They shouldn’t become victims of their circumstances‚” he said.

“There is a phrase: ‘your handicap in life is not what you can’t do with what you don’t have‚ your handicap is what you don’t do with what you have’. “It is the creation of habits. Our life is a product of our habits.”

Putter stressed that the players can also seek positives in the hand they have been dealt.

“Often players’ families suffer because of the long time the player is on tour‚” he said. “They are also public property.

“This is the ideal time to reset and get into agreement about where we are heading in our lives. We are restricted in physical movement by the government, but no-one is taking personal choices away from you in terms of how you should think.”

The stress the players are exposed to while at home is different from what they experience in the hurly-burly match day environment.

“The stress they experience on the field is different‚” said Putter. “That is based on adrenalin and excitement. You enter the arena into a fight in which you represent a lot of people’s dreams. You are the one on the field tasked with that job. What players are facing now is more an emotional and psychological confrontation.”

Though players are equipped with programmes of what they must do to keep physically in shape as well as tactically sharp‚ Putter suggests they identify what they miss about the match-day experience.

“One of my big frustrations, when I used to play, was the physical contact‚” he said. “I liked the bump and grind, and if you don’t have that your body actually becomes a little soft and weaker. That too can lead to frustration.

“If players apply themselves they can ask what they miss most about playing. There are certain things they can try to simulate.”

The all-encompassing effects of Covid-19 can be overwhelming, but Putter offered a final caution.

“It is the easiest thing to predict doom and gloom in life. If you think about fear all the time your body becomes weaker and you become vulnerable to illness.”