New coach Eddie Jones hopes to transform the Stormers into a world-class attacking side that can challenge for the Vodacom Super Rugby title, reports JON CARDINELLI.
Jones faced the local media in Cape Town for the first time on Thursday. The veteran coach made it clear from the outset that he has committed to the Stormers for a specific purpose.
Jones believes the Stormers can make the physical and mental shift needed to become a more effective attacking unit. He feels that, in time, a more rounded Stormers side will be in a position to win that elusive title.
Some reports in the United Kingdom have linked Jones to the England head coach job. Jones moved to dismiss these reports on Thursday, and reiterated his commitment to the Stormers.
Jones was clear about the direction in which this team is heading. At the same time, he conceded that there would be a number of challenges, and that the Stormers’ transformation from a defence-minded side to a more balanced unit would take time.
‘It’s an honour to have this opportunity to coach one of the oldest and most prestigious teams in the world,’ said Jones. ‘We have a very young squad here, but we’ve got to play some good rugby over the next couple of years.
‘In my mind, what has to change is the way we attack. You want to take that traditional South African base of uncompromising physicality and set-piece strength and add some Western Province flavour.’
Jones enjoyed success as the head coach of the Wallabies and the Brumbies at the turn of the century. He referred back to the stint with the Australian Super Rugby side, and how it took some time to transform the Brumbies into a unit that achieved the dual objective of winning a title and playing an entertaining brand of rugby.
‘I have a history of producing attacking teams with the Brumbies and Japan [who recently stunned the Springboks at the World Cup]. It will take time to work with all the players here and get them to understand the way we want to play. It took three years at the Brumbies. Hopefully it won’t take that long here, otherwise I might not be here [in the job].
‘I can’t say how long it will take. Sometimes you get a good result early in the season and pick up confidence. Other times you lose and it can take you longer to develop. Ultimately, by the end of next season I want us to be playing a distinctive Stormers style of rugby. I don’t want them to play like the Brumbies or Japan, I want them to play like the Stormers. The aim is to win a trophy, but I want the team to light up Newlands.’
Jones said that the Stormers, and every South African franchise for that matter, cannot persist with the same methods and game plans of 2015 and expect a different result. Bok coach Heyneke Meyer made the point recently that fitness as well as skill development is lacking at Super Rugby level, and that change is long overdue.
‘We want to play at a high tempo, and keep the opposition on the back foot,’ said Jones. ‘If you look at the recent World Cup, there was a difference between the northern and southern hemispheres. There was a difference in skill and in the ability to get back into the game [in the second half].
‘I believe that the South African teams trail the New Zealand and Australian sides in these departments. So our preparation for the 2016 season will be very different. We need to make sure the players understand how we want to play. Strength and conditioning is going to be very important.’
Jones said that he would be working closely with director of rugby Gert Smal on a number of issues. There will be a drive from every South African team to field more players of colour from 2016 onwards. Saru hopes to field a national side that is 50% white and 50% black at the 2019 World Cup.
‘Transformation is part of this society, and I must say that I’m lucky that I have Gert to guide me,’ said Jones. ‘I’m not too worried about it, though, as this union has a history of embracing transformation.’
Jones will conduct further meetings with his assistant coaches over the next week and formulate a plan for the pre-season. Jones said he will only appoint a new captain (Jean de Villiers and Duane Vermeulen are no longer with the Stormers) once he has discussed the matter at length with his coaching team and had more time to assess the candidates.
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