Keep­ing up with the Jones will be good for SA rugby

CityPress - - Sport - Dan Retief dan.retief@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @retief­dan

Dis­patches that Ed­die Jones will coach the Storm­ers in next year’s Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion fit in nicely with the buildup to the rugby World Cup. Eight years ago, Jones was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing Jake White take the Spring­boks to their sec­ond World Cup suc­cess in the 2007 tour­na­ment in France.

The man who, with the Brumbies, gave Aus­tralia the Su­per 14 ti­tle for the first time and guided an un­fan­cied Wal­laby team to the fi­nal of the 2003 World Cup did not add much to the Spring­boks – but what he did add was cru­cial.

He kept a low pro­file, un­like his days with the Wal­la­bies, when he loved ril­ing the English, and sidestepped all my re­quests, as Su­perS­port’s news re­porter at the time, to ap­pear on cam­era.

He even­tu­ally re­lented dur­ing the week of the quar­ter­fi­nals in Mar­seilles, per­haps be­cause White by then was suf­fer­ing from media fa­tigue, but he was guarded in his replies to my ques­tions.

How­ever, once the cam­era was taken down, we chat­ted, and I was able to glean some of his in­sight­ful thoughts about the Spring­boks.

One rev­e­la­tion was a strat­egy he had learnt from his pre­de­ces­sor at both the Brumbies and the Wal­la­bies, Rod Macqueen.

In an ef­fort to in­volve the Aussie play­ers and get them to be part of team tac­tics, he used to in­struct them to view the Spring­boks, or the All Blacks for that mat­ter, as a fortress that had to be sacked.

He asked them to come back with ideas about how they would go about breach­ing the de­fences of “Castle Spring­bok” and, he re­vealed, some­times those thoughts were good ones.

I was im­me­di­ately struck by how for­tu­nate the Spring­boks were to have Jones’ ser­vices. Sud­denly, a man who had spent years pon­der­ing how to beat us was in our team im­part­ing all that ex­pe­ri­ence.

Jones was al­ways adamant that John Smit’s Spring­boks were a very good team and did not need to change much, but for a few tweaks.

These could be nar­rowed down to three main things, and I could not help but smile when he men­tioned the first.

“The trou­ble with you South Africans,” he said, “is that you don’t com­mu­ni­cate.” He meant the team, of course, but how true.

Jones set about get­ting the play­ers to talk to each other more, to call out their po­si­tions and con­stantly let the man with the ball know where his sup­port was.

In ad­di­tion, he en­cour­aged the Boks to use the short or blind side more, and this, or­ches­trated by Fourie du Preez, be­came the source of many of the Spring­boks’ tries dur­ing the tour­na­ment.

The third ad­just­ment was to get the Boks to move out of their habit of hav­ing just one run­ner call­ing for the ball at the break­down.

Jones felt hav­ing a “one-off” run­ner made the Boks pre­dictable, and he en­cour­aged them to in­tro­duce a few vari­a­tions by hav­ing more play­ers take up dif­fer­ent po­si­tions to sug­gest the ball might go to them rather than trans­mit­ting who was go­ing to crash it up – thus giv­ing the scrum half more op­tions.

It worked a treat – but sadly, es­pe­cially in the last two as­pects, the Boks have slipped back into old bad habits.

Jones’ ap­point­ment at the Storm­ers has yet to be of­fi­cially con­firmed, but here’s hop­ing it’s more than a ru­mour.

Jones would rel­ish work­ing with the loads of tal­ent avail­able in the Cape, and South African rugby can do with an in­jec­tion of new and in­ven­tive think­ing.

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