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It’s Currie Cup season and until October fans will be soaring in ecstasy or despairing in defeat as seven teams battle for a place in the final.

Often described as the engine room of South African rugby, the world’s longest-running rugby tournament will confirm some hard-won reputations and reveal some exciting new talent.

But, as DHL Western Province coach John Dobson attests, there’s much more to winning games than picking the best squad each Saturday.

“All the training, experience and talent in the world will only take you so far. No team can win without a game plan that brings everything together and capitalises on your strengths and exploits the opposition’s weaknesses.”

Marlies Kappers head of marketing at Currie Cup sponsor and financial services company, DirectAxis, says having a game plan is just as important for financial success.

“Planning is essential to a team’s Currie Cup campaign and is just as critical if you want to perform at your best financially.”

Here are some of the things to think about when you consider your financial game plan.

Know how financially fit you are: The best way to do this is to check your credit rating. By law you’re entitled to a free credit report once a year from any of the credit bureaus.

But, an annual financial fitness test may not be enough. It may also not give you all the information you need. How fit or unfit are you? What are the areas of concern and how can you improve?

Fortunately there are free online financial tools that can help such as DirectAxis Pulse www.directaxis.co.za/pulse These allow you to get a free assessment whenever you want, provide information on where you can improve and track your progress over time. 

Understand the rules: It’s much harder for teams to win matches let alone tournaments if they have poor discipline or continually give away soft penalties.

The same is true when working to achieve your financial goals.

Just as a team gets a reputation for dirty play or not respecting the rules, getting into too much debt, not paying debts or paying late will harm your credit score.

Everybody from banks to retailers, landlords to car dealers decide about your financial dependability based on the three figures that comprise your credit score. Think of it as your financial reputation and be aware that if it’s bad you could get red-carded when you apply for finance.

Set your goals: Once you’ve assessed your fitness and understand the rules you can start planning. Where do you want to be in six months, a year, two years, five years?

A coach with a young, inexperienced team may aim to win most of the home games in the first season, make it to the semi-finals the next and win the tournament in the third. This long-term planning will help inform the decisions he makes before each game.

You may want to buy a car, further your education or renovate your home. To do this you may have to start saving or improve your credit score, so you can get a loan. You can then set a series of short-term goals, such as how much to save each month or which debts to pay off first, and start working towards these.

Adapt if you need to: A coach who has a 20-point lead may decide to substitute some of his best players to rest them for the next game. Similarly, one whose team is behind in a must-win game might replace a struggling player.

If you’re not achieving your financial goals you may need to make some adjustments to your plan. Your ability to increase your income is probably limited, but there may be some personal expenses you can reduce. These might include cutting back on entertainment or not buying an outfit you don’t really need

Similarly, if you’re easily achieving your goals, you might consider saving a bit more or even investing some money.

“Any Currie Cup coach will tell you that having a game plan isn’t a guarantee of success, but losing is certain without one,” says Marlies.