Eddie Jones says he expects the Springboks to boast traditional strengths under the guidance of new coach Rassie Erasmus, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Jones was in fine form at England’s first press conference on Sunday. He has opted for the squad to be based in Durban for the week, before flying up to Johannesburg on the eve of Saturday’s clash against the Boks at Ellis Park.
In lighter-hearted moments with the media, Jones raved about the climate and beaches in Durban, while joking about England’s desire to surf back to shore in a metaphorical reference to their need to get back to winning ways after a horror Six Nations campaign.
However, in more serious moments, Jones also turned antagonistic when he lashed out at Bath club owner Bruce Craig – labelling him the ‘Donald Trump of rugby’ – who has been highly critical of the England coach’s training methods.
When turning his attention to the Springboks and South Africa, though, Jones went on the charm offensive.
‘In world rugby, who do you want to beat? The Springboks at Ellis Park. It’s a spiritual home of rugby, everyone remembers the 1995 World Cup final – the change that had for rugby, for the country and the value it offered to sport in general. To get the opportunity to play the first game here in a three-Test series is a special occasion for everyone involved.
‘I’ve got a great affinity with Springbok and South African rugby [Jones served as a Bok coaching consultant during the triumphant 2007 World Cup campaign]. I cherish the relationships I’ve had, and I cherish the opportunity to coach in what I think will be a great Test series.’
Jones insisted that England would need to be ‘physically and mentally’ ready to face a well-drilled, highly-organised Springbok side under Erasmus.
‘I think he’ll bring back traditional Bok values such as strong defence, strong kicking, good chasing, strong set piece. Wherever Rassie’s coached, those teams have always had those attributes, so I wouldn’t expect the Boks to be anything less than that… They’ve got some good players back from overseas and they will play with an enormous pride for the jersey, that much we do know.’
England have not won at Ellis Park for 46 years, and they now come to South Africa with an injury-depleted squad and a new captain in Owen Farrell. Jones has also come in for increasing criticism, but he reiterated that this Saturday’s Test presented a golden opportunity for his side to rise to the occasion.
‘The hallmark of a really good team and when touring South Africa is that you have to be resilient, control what you can, and to be ready for everything. I’m sure it’s going to be hostile, but to be a great team, you have to be able to do great things on great occasions.
‘That’s what this will be, all the talk is about the Springboks’ revival and that they’ve got a coach who has probably been earmarked for [the job for] some time. There’s a lot of hope and expectation. We’re coming here and want to get back to winning ways, and then we want to win the World Cup [next year], and part of that process is beating South Africa in South Africa.’
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