Rugby, the Supply Chain and Real Time Winning Strategies

Coordinated Alignment Results in All Round Wins

Globally, avid rugby enthusiasts are preparing to watch the 2023 Rugby World Cup, taking place in France over the next 4 weeks.

Regardless of whether individual or team-aligned, sports competitions always culminate with there being a winner and a loser. To ensure a winning advantage gets enabled, it’s critical stakeholders can carefully adapt to the ever-changing configurations of play, so careful planning needs implementation. Tactical, technical, and physical performances must operate within a framework of strategies, working in a non-linear, dynamic, and complex ecosystem, much the same as the successful supply chains of today and even more so of those of tomorrow.


RSA vs Eng RWC 2019


Each player within the team is an essential component of a winning team, much the same as each stakeholder within the movement of goods along the critical path is a fundamental component of a robust and successful supply chain. Coordinated alignment, the removal of siloes, enhanced visibility, role clarity, and the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively in real time is essential for enabling a fully optimised consumer-centric and demand-driven supply chain.

Successful Rugby Team vs. Successful Supply Chain Management

A successful Rugby team has strength and depth in every position, but even more than this, they are a well-drilled and oiled machine; agile on the pitch and able to take responsibility when a passage of play dictates – whether attacking or defending. 


Successful Supply Chain


In much the same way a successful digital supply chain works, if everything is going to plan, the execution is lean, and precise. However, in the event of a sudden risk event or breakdown in flow occurring, a digital supply chain enables the operators to make a timely and informed interception and execute to keep the consumer deadline. Similarly, within the strategic game of rugby, when a breakdown in the passage of play occurs, the team assesses and reacts at that exact moment to counter the disruption and mitigate risk to win the ball back.

Head Coach vs. Supply Chain Manager

Perhaps considered as the control tower of operations, this important component of the team has all the available options at their fingertips as a result of trusting and reacting to precisely what’s presented in real time — the same as with a digitized supply chain. Supply Chain Managers also have undisputed and vast amounts of real time data and insights at their fingertips; and this data doesn’t lie if it is connected, and coming from the source. 

Learning to trust the data and the options available to you is the key to delivering a successful digital transformation. Equally as important is empowering the stakeholders to deliver on what gets presented. Similarly to a rugby team formation, each player has a role and is enabled to execute on their role to ensure the next passage of play brings the next stakeholder (player or phase) into play.

Fly Half vs. Visibility Platform

In rugby, every player is looking at the same situation at the same time just from differing angles, and collectively making decisions to support the team and the end goal – A WIN. Teams are typically orchestrated in real time by the fly-half or number 10, who sees all the opportunity and risk and so can dictate the play strategy. The role is arguably the most influential on the pitch, as the player is required to coordinate the backs, execute the kicks, is more often than not involved in passes, and runs the play. The fly-half will usually execute the strategy and processes presented to deliver the game plan, and this corresponds with your visibility platform in action! 




n a digital supply chain platform, everyone should have visibility to the critical path, ensuring every stakeholder is looking at the same scenario and working accordingly to that moment in time. Not too dissimilar to the fly-half, the visibility platform is there to execute the strategy (the critical path); it receives all the data and presents opportunities and risks. A harmonized and orchestrated supply chain will allow for execution to happen by enabling users to know with absolute certainty what decision needs to get made.


The Losers – Fragmentation And Silos

A rugby team doesn’t work well if it’s fragmented and working in silos’. Each play has a role and a position, and these get grouped into departments, working collectively, and supporting each other:

  • forwards
  • the scrum
  • center’s
  • the wing-backs
  • fly-halve
  • full-back




All players work as one, reacting to situations in a coordinated and systematic approach. Similarly, a supply chain doesn’t work well when fragmented and working within its silo. Utilizing the powers of a ‘one view of the truth’ visibility platform, shared across each department, ensures decisions get made collectively and with complete transparency. When everything is going to plan, there is nothing for you to do, as a digitized visibility solution, allows you to see it’s going to plan, and therefore there is nothing to worry about. As risk or disruption is about to happen or has just happened, giving access to each department ensures the risk gets seen and actioned, which allows for other departments to act and plan accordingly. Like within rugby, the earlier you spot a risk, the quicker you can adapt, mitigate, realign, and move forwards. Supply Chain visibility works in the same way, the earlier you see the risk, and with real time data, you can act, realign and move forwards to ensure consumer demands get met. 

The Winners – Champions And Digitised Supply Chains

2019 RWC Winners


Winning a Rugby Union World Cup has to be the highest honor for any Union player, getting to a World Cup Final is no easy feat, no team has ever gone all the way to a final purely by relying on luck. South Africa is the only world champion to win a World Cup after having lost a group stage in the competition. The same applies to your supply chain; You have to win the consumer. You will not deliver a competitive and seamless solution working in silos, fragmentation, or disparate legacy systems, which ultimately rely on the use of spreadsheets to eventually understand what went wrong and how you may be able to resolve the situation. Reactive decision making will result in your consumer looking elsewhere and your brand recognition getting damaged. However, by delivering a connected, digital, agile, consumer-faced supply chain, you can ensure your goal of retaining clients and scaling will get delivered in full.  

Disruptions And Smart Decisions

Unfortunately, as with supply chains, there are often unexpected situations occurring throughout the game, all of which have the potential to create significant disruption. An example of an unexpected occurrence requiring a quick reaction on the rugby field is the result of the spheroid balls bouncing in any direction upon landing should it not get caught clearly. This wayward bouncing ball often creates incorrect forecasting, much the same as when an unexpected disruption occurs within the supply chain.




Both successful supply chains and strong and winning teams require stakeholders to be flexible to changes and evolving situations. To allow the process to keep moving forward, they must utilize the power of a solid organizational structure that enables smart decisions to get made and executed with certainty. It is, without doubt, those digitized, outward-facing, and agile companies will succeed and flourish. 

Plan, Control, And Execute

The broad range of activities required to both plan, control and execute a winning rugby game plan, are very similar to those necessary for supply chains to drive products to flow from materials to production, production to distribution, and on to the end consumer most economically and efficiently. 




Integrated planning strategies with buy-in and sign off from the top-down, change management, collaboration, and risk management along with specialized software, create alignment and communication between all participants which empower supply chains and provide numerous benefits such as:

  • enabling new efficiencies to meet customer demand
  • increasing profit levels
  • lowering costs to a minimum 
  • increasing the power of collaboration
  • bettering demand and inventory management
  • the ability to predict and mitigate the risk of disruption


Article courtesy of Gravity and adapted by SAPICS.

Rugby Photos courtesy of SA Rugby World -