Although I have some empathy with those who
blanche at the thought of Eddie Jones in a
Springbok tracksuit his recruitment may turn
out to be one of the best moves made by Jake
White. To hear it told Jones has variously
been described as a traitor (predictably by
his fellow Aussies), a fifth column within
the ranks of the Springboks or a Trojan
In short, there are those who believe Jones
is a spy; a subversive agent sent to the
undermine the Boks’ chance of winning The
Webb Ellis Cup in France.
Mistrust runs deeply in local rugby circles,
especially as Jones was viewed as a prize
whinger when he was in charge of the
Wallabies, but my contention is that his
appointment could end up being a
If there are two things that have been wrong
with the way the Boks have played under
White it has been an inability to hold onto
possession of the ball for extended periods
and a lack of variation in the backline.
Jones’s background suggests he might be able
to instil both. In his four years in
Canberra his Brumbies took ball retention to
unprecedented levels while he developed the
like of George Gregan, Stephen Larkham, Matt
Giteau, Stirling Mortlock and whoever else
he chose to put around them into one of the
smartest and most unpredictable backlines
With the talent, size and pace available to
the Boks just a little of what the Brumbies
had under Jones – that uncanny ability to
protect the ball, to recycle it until the
right opportunity either arose or was
created, those oblique running lines and,
yes, the dummy or blocking runners – could
make them unstoppable.
Jones, remember, is no fool. He won the
Super 12 with the Brumbies, he coached
Australia ‘A’ to victory over the British
and Irish Lions, he won the Tri-Nations and
the Bledisloe Cup, he took Australia to a
World Cup Final which was only lost in the
dying second of extra time.
And he did all this with extremely limited
resources. The man knows his rugby and I
look forward to what influence he might have
on the Boks – hell he must be feeling like a
kid in a candy story when he looks around
and sees what he has to work with compared
to where he has just come from.
And apart from what he can show the Boks,
former school principal Jones will also
impart a far more valuable lesson – what he
knows about them.
The Wallabies have a way of dissecting their
opponents. They imagine a team to be a
fortress and they set themselves the task of
breaking into, or breaking down the
fortifications. Where might a team be weak?
What undefended weakness can they play on?
Jones will be able to tell the Boks what he
and the Wallabies thought of them; how they
believed they might sack the green-and-gold
castle and that might be the most precious
piece of wisdom he imparts.
The Wallabies, and for that matter the All
Blacks, England, France and latterly
Ireland, have made no secret of their belief
that the Boks are beatable and it should be
invaluable for the coach, his staff and the
team to hear why this should be so from a
man who used to plot their downfall.
So I have no problem with Eddie in a
Springbok tracksuit. Hell, give him a
blazer! Everyone else has one.
DAN RETIEF -
SuperRugby.co.za | Tuesday, 31 July 2007
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