Ed­die is not just plan­ning to teach Eben how to pass a ball

New Storm­ers boss ap­pre­ci­ates a good de­fence as much as at­tack

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - ZE­LIM NEL

ED­DIE JONES is go­ing to teach Eben Etze­beth how to pass the ball as part of a plan to up­skill the Storm­ers at­tack.

How­ever, while the man who coached Ja­pan to un­prece­dented suc­cess at the re­cent World Cup mes­merised the Cape me­dia at his open­ing press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day with talk of “light­ing up New­lands”, what may have been lost in trans­la­tion is that im­pen­e­tra­ble de­fence will form the foun­da­tion of the plan.

“This team comes out of Western Prov­ince and the tra­di­tion is to play rugby,” Jones said. “But that doesn’t mean we want to be any less de­fen­sively good than the Storm­ers were be­fore – they were very good un­der Al­lis­ter Coetzee and won three out of five SA Con­fer­ence ti­tles. We want to add a plus fac­tor to our game.”

The big­gest plus in Ja­pan’s rugby history came at the World Cup in Septem­ber when the Brave Blos­soms clinched their first win against the Spring­boks.

Jones is revered as an at­tack­ing mas­ter­mind and the mag­ni­tude of that vic­tory cov­ered the nuts and bolts of a con­test that the un­der­dogs had won by play­ing less rugby – Ja­pan had less pos­ses­sion, made fewer car­ries, more tack­les and kicked more than the South Africans.

That recipe will be fa­mil­iar to those who packed into New­lands be­tween 2010 and 2012, the most suc­cess­ful pe­riod in Storm­ers history dur­ing which the team won 36 of 49 matches en route to three suc­ces­sive trips to the play­offs.

Jones turned the Brumbies into Su­per Rugby cham­pi­ons in 2001 and took the Wal­la­bies to the 2003 World Cup fi­nal.

While those two teams are right­fully re­mem­bered for their at­tack­ing strike-power – cour­tesy of the iconic half­back com­bi­na­tion of Ge­orge Gre­gan and Stephen Larkham, and leg­endary out­side backs such as Stir­ling Mort­lock and Joe Roff – Jones’ in­flu­ence was in both cases first ev­i­dent in for­ti­fy­ing the de­fence.

The Brumbies fin­ished 10th over­all in 1998, scor­ing 228 points and 29 tries and con­ced­ing 308 points and 34 tries. The at­tack im­proved by 50 points and four tries the fol­low­ing sea­son, but the dra­matic change came on de­fence where they al­lowed just 18 tries and 195 points, and fin­ished fifth.

Aus­tralia scored half as many tries un­der Jones in the 2001 Tri-Na­tions com­pe­ti­tion as they had un­der Rod Mac­queen the year be­fore, but they con­ceded fewer points and tries, and re­tained the tro­phy. And it was the Wal­la­bies who boasted the best de­fence at the 2003 World Cup.

Jones’ ap­pre­ci­a­tion for de­fence won’t al­low him to over­look the fact that the Storm­ers gave up more than twice as many tries this year (41) as they had in 2010 (18).

The steady de­cline of the at­tack since the Storm- ers’ only ap­pear­ance in a fi­nal will also not have es­caped his at­ten­tion.

A 49-15 win against the Chiefs in Hamil­ton and 42- 14 re­sult against the Cru­saders in Cape Town were the high­lights of a 2010 cam­paign that net­ted 39 tries in 15 matches. That num­ber dropped to 34 tries the fol­low­ing sea­son and, by the end of the 2012 sea­son, the Storm­ers had failed to score more than three tries in a match, fin­ish­ing with 29 in 17 out­ings.

Jones wants to re­vive the Storm­ers’ trade­mark de­fence and

breathe life back into the

at­tack, and it’s for this rea­son that the con­ven­tional condi

el­e­ments of

tion­ing pre-sea­son train­ing will be sup­ple­mented with a skills com­po­nent from the out­set.

“Play­ing at­tack­ing rugby is all about skill,” he said. “You have to be able to catch and pass at pace, and con­sis­tently make good de­ci­sions.”

The per­cep­tion that South African play­ers lack in­di­vid­ual skill is trend­ing at the mo­ment; Jones hinted that the prob­lem doesn’t lay with the play­ers.

“South Africa has al­ways been a coun­try that prides it­self on phys­i­cal rugby and it has held them in good stead, so there’s no rea­son to say that’s not right,” he said. “But there’s been a ten­dency in South Africa to pi­geon- hole play­ers – if a player can’t pass then they get rid of him in­stead of work­ing with him.

“No one is nat­u­rally skilful, ev­ery­one is coached or taught to be skilful. Eben Etze­beth, can’t pass but that doesn’t mean he won’t be taught to pass.”

Like Storm­ers fans, Queens­lan­ders be­lieve that their team has a tra­di­tion of play­ing an en­ter­tain­ing brand of rugby.

This is per­haps the rea­son why Jones wasn’t given suf­fi­cient lat­i­tude or time to re­con­struct the Reds in 2007 and, af­ter that team con­ceded 438 points in 13 games to fin­ish in last place on the stand­ings, he cut short what was sup­posed to be a three-year stint in Brisbane.

“We’re not go­ing to be fizzing the ball around the park in the first three or four games of the sea­son,” Jones warned.

“It’s go­ing to take time for the play­ers to understand their roles and to de­velop de­ci­sion-making and skills.

“But hope­fully by the end of the sea­son we’ll be play­ing the kind of rugby we want to play.”

JEF­FREY ABRA­HAMS

SO IS THIS MY OF­FICE? Ed­die Jones will try and ‘light up New­lands’ next year for the Cape supporters.

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