Japan’s heroes can inspire generation of youngsters into game, says Jones
Japan’s head coach, Eddie Jones, hailed his side’s 34-32 win over South Africa as ‘one of the greatest days’ in his career after what was one of the most extraordinary games in World Cup history. Jones believes the victory will send shock waves through Japanese sport after the Brave Blossoms toppled the two-time world champions to register their first World Cup win since 1991.
“We have made a splash today but we want to make a real dent and I hope that this will inspire Japanese kids to turn their back on becoming a baseball star or a footballer in Europe and take up rugby instead,” said Jones, who stressed his team now need to back up this seismic achievement with a repeat performance against Scotland at Kingsholm on Wednesday.
Jones had no complaint about the four-day turnaround. “We are at the bottom of the food chain, the little fish at the bottom of the ocean and we just have to eat what comes our way. Our players are used to backing up in games. This result has thrown the pool wide open.” Jones, 55, has already indicated he will step down at the end of the tournament to take up a post with the Stormers in South Africa.
“We’re not done yet and the goal has always been to reach the quarter-finals,” said Jones, who used to enjoy verbal jousting with Clive Woodward during his time with the Wallabies. “If we do that, then I can retire happy with my dream to be like Sir Clive on TV as a critic. That’s my dream. Look, I’m too old for this. At my age I should be in Barbados watching cricket.” There is no doubt that Jones’s energy and rugby intellect has wrought an enormous change in Japanese rugby. He believed, so they believed, even if Jones was still pinching himself.
“I had to go back out and check the scoreboard again,” said Jones, a man whose quips are as sharp as his coaching drills. “It got to 60 minutes, and we were right in it but I thought it was going to be like the woman going into the shower in a horror film, you just knew what was going to happen next.
“The Boks would come back, score and score, and it would finish 50-20 and everyone would say how well we had done, plucky Japan. We were more than brave out there. For the boys to turn down the chance of a draw with that last penalty to go for the win, and get it, told you everything about them. It is all pretty special, pretty humbling. I have been in coaching for 20 years and I have never worked so hard.”
South Africa were shell-shocked. “We have let down the country, for which I apologise,” said head coach, Heneke Meyer, whose side face Samoa next weekend at Villa Park as they look to salvage their campaign. “It is unacceptable. We can’t keep doing this. This is by far the most difficult day. We have to be 100 times better if we are to go through to the next round. I think there will be more shock results in this tournament.”
Greatest day: Eddie Jones has set his sights on the quarterfinals after his Japan team shocked twotime world champions South Africa