In 2013 a special player joined the ranks at Exeter Chiefs. Zimbabwe born, Don Armand. Since then Don has become a firm fan favourite and has won about as many man of the matches as I can remember, including the final of the Aviva Premiership last year when Chiefs took the title. In 2016 he was nominated for the Aviva Premiership Player of the Year award and he won his first England cap in June 2017 in a tight win over Argentina. Chiefs fans are sure this will be the first of many.
I’m so pleased that he has taken time out of his busy training schedule to answer a few questions for the blog. I hope you enjoy.
1). Don, what’s your greatest ever achievement?
It’s a close call between getting a cap for England and winning the prem last season. Both very recent and fresh on my mind. I have other achievements which did spring to mind but I’d have to say, at this stage I’m going with winning the prem, because it came after a very hard fought season, and culminated in a game that lasted 100 minutes and literally was one of the toughest and most satisfying things I’ve been involved in.
2). Can you give us a brief potted history of your time in the game. Clubs played for etc…
A brief history, junior school was at Highlands junior school in Harare, Zimbabwe, from high school (Maritzburg college, South Africa) I went to the university of Cape Town and played for my uni team in the local club league, onto western province and Stormers (same region as uni, which is Cape Town), and now I find myself at Exeter Chiefs.
3). What does a normal training session look like for you?
A normal training session involves a lot of running around after rugby balls and sweating profusely in the process! With the odd tackle and ruck added in to make it a bit fun! Normally we have gym before running around the field and have a couple of meetings to round the day off.
4). What’s the best strategy you’ve come across for winning consistently.
Sticking to task and sticking to system. Trusting the system is a big learn, because it’s not always miracles and individual acts of brilliance that win games, it consistently doing the right thing that brings the best results.
5). Is there anything you think business can learn from Rugby?
There is so much that I think business could learn from rugby. Most of all would be the ability to work as a team. I often hear stories of people working in an organisation, relying on each other to succeed (sales for example) but never having even met each other face to face. Rugby is all about learning how to interact with people who all have different strengths and characteristics, and being able to work with each other to achieve a common goal. Also to enjoy what you are doing! Some of the most successful teams in sport are not necessarily the ones that push results, but are the ones that push a happy environment, which breeds productive and motivated minds!
6). What time are you up in the morning and what time is lights out?
Ha ha, by choice or by necessity? I generally try and be asleep by 10, would love to wake up at about 7, but I have two wonderful children, who between them consistently ensure that my wake up time is a little closer to 6 than 7!
7). Being man of the match in the premiership final must have felt pretty special, talk us through that.
Well to be honest, that award could have gone to a number of players on the day. I was way too exhausted on the day to really appreciate it at the time. Obviously looking back on it I know it was a great honour, but the thing that is really special was what we achieved as a team. What I achieved with others on that day, will always be way more special to me than what I achieved as an individual in the final.
8). How do you pick yourself up after losing a big game?
Kind of the same way I reset after a good win. Either way, the previous week should have a minimal effect on the upcoming game. Obviously I take a couple of days to ponder the game and assess where things went wrong and learn from my mistakes. But once the week starts it’s really important to look forward and make sure my mind is preparing to perform for the next game rather than stay stuck in the previous weeks result.
9). What does a standard day look like (if there is such a thing)?
A standard day, as briefly described in my practice session above, will have gym, meetings and a field session, but also will have some recovery time scheduled in and one or two coffee breaks. We get fed breakfast and lunch so food isn’t an issue. It does change week by week depending on when the game is on the weekend, but on the whole we stick to pretty similar schedules every week.
10). Do you set any sort of goals?
I do and I don’t. I sometimes feel goals can be limiting if not set with the right intentions. I prefer to set broader goals, like setting a goal to perform well, rather than say, play against such and such a team on a set date. I’m a big believer in keeping your mind open, because you never know what greatness you’re capable of if you are constantly chasing smaller goals. Goals are good to help you focus I must admit, but Personally i think there is a time and a place for them. For example, I have an overall goal of ensuring my family is happy and provided for, and in order to achieve that goal I will do whatever it takes. I feel this doesn’t limit the opportunities I allow into my life to help me.
11). How important is looking after your health and diet?
Very! I hate being sick! And I do believe the two go hand in hand in more ways than we know! I’m constantly badgering my family to make sure they are eating right and trying my best to do it myself too!
12). How important is the atmosphere in the stadium in helping or hindering a team?
I think the atmosphere at Sandy Park speaks for itself. It’s certainly helps give that extra boost when times are tough. It can be quite a challenge if you know you are going to a stadium that so passionately supports its players, cause you know they will make more noise when things are going well for them, and even more when the chips are down!
13). What would you tell your 21 year old self?
Don’t be scared of the hard work, it gets you to places no one believes you can get to! And also, enjoy the journey! Sometimes you can get so caught up in where you going that you look back and realise how much you missed out on!
14). What’s after Rugby for Don or is that too far off?
Ha ha, hopefully that’s too far right now! For now I’ll be helping my wife focus on building up her business, and also just enjoy being able to play rugby while it lasts!
Quick Fire Questions – Only need one word
1). Who is the hardest working player you’ve played with or against?
2). Most impressive player you’ve played with or against?
3). Best team you’ve played against?
4). Fave social media site
5). Who is your inspiration?