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The spy who came in from the Reds

Dan Retief 31/7/07

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 horse.

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 masterstroke.

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 imaginable.

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 | Comment on this article

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Dan Retief

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The spy in from the Reds 31/7/07
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