Eddie Jones says he has no doubt that the Springboks can be World Cup contenders in Japan next year, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Cape Town.
Although the Boks slipped to a disappointing 25-10 defeat to England at Newlands on Saturday, they walked away as deserved 2-1 winners in a series where they also exposed a number of new players to the rigours of Test rugby.
There can be no denying that the Boks have made plenty of progress over the course of an enthralling series, with Jones acknowledging that they had ultimately been beaten by the better side over the series.
‘I think it was a great series, which was healthy for Test rugby,’ said Jones. ‘We faced a revitalised, well-coached Bok team that has a great balance of players. I think the Boks were really good in the first two Tests, and deserved the series win, but there were such small margins in all of these Tests.
‘We would like to play the Boks again next week, though,’ he joked. ‘We’re hitting our peak now, so we’re trying to organise a game at Twickenham for next Saturday.’
When Jones was asked whether he felt the Springboks would be a force to be reckoned with at next year’s World Cup, the England coach suggested the answer was obvious when one considered how far they had already come in a short space of time.
‘There are some bloody good young players here, who were always going to come together and perform. South Africa has great depth of talent, and some very good youngsters coming through. Rassie has done a really good job, and a couple of early wins will serve the Boks well.
‘If you compare the Boks now to where they were not that long ago, they are working much harder off the ball, their maul is strong – which is a traditional strength – while they can also spread the ball into space and make good gains with players like Willie le Roux joining the line.
‘I think they’ll just get stronger, and could certainly be World Cup contenders.’
When Jones’ comments were relayed to Erasmus at a subsequent press conference, the Bok coach raised a knowing eyebrow, before offering a flattered smile.
‘I think there are a lot of teams that will have a good chance [at the World Cup] next year. England are definitely one of them when you consider how they’ve come back and won here [at Newlands], while I think we were terrible today, to be honest.
‘We’ve got quite a balancing act to conduct as we build towards the World Cup, such as managing players and learning from experiences like this [the loss to England]. Of course, if we can get it right, we should be in with a chance because we do have the players. But there’s a lot of work to do, and we need to succeed in ensuring we have a fresh, balanced and experienced squad to take to the World Cup.’
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