May 29, 2018
Eddie Jones believes his intimate knowledge of South African rugby can help England “beat history” to claim a first away series win against the Springboks.
Jones expects South Africa to be highly motivated because of “cultural issues” between the countries, highlighting a “dislike of the English”, but is sticking to his stated aim of a 3-0 series win next month.
Any win would do at the moment. The 63-45 defeat by the Barbarians on Sunday was a fourth successive defeat under Jones but it was the embarrassing nature of it – never before have England conceded more points at Twickenham – that gave cause for concern.
Jones is putting great faith in the return of 15 players from Exeter and Saracens, singling out the Vunipola brothers, Maro Itoje and his new captain, Owen Farrell, for their performances in the Premiership final on Saturday, but acknowledged they will need to be “re-educated” to England’s tactical approach, which he says has changed since the Six Nations.
Jones will also be giving history lessons, attempting to hammer home the reasons why England have won only three of their 13 matches away against South Africa, the most recent in 2000. South Africa have renewed optimism under their new coach, Rassie Erasmus, who has recalled five players based overseas including Sale’s Faf de Klerk and Wasps’ Willie le Roux , and who on Monday made one of the most significant appointments in the Springboks’ history, naming Siya Kolisi as their first black captain.
The Springboks have been beaten by England only once since 2006 but Jones, who was on the coaching staff for South Africa’s 2007 World Cup triumph and masterminded Japan’s 2015 World Cup victory against the Springboks, has claimed he knows their “rugby psyche” as well as anyone.
“It always comes down to the fact the first thing you’ve got to do is beat history. History shows England have never won a series in South Africa,” he said. “I probably understand the South African rugby psyche as well as any having had experiences there. And I know what they are going to be like when they play England. There are certain cultural issues between the two countries that provide great motivation for the South Africans.”
Jones is expecting a fearsome welcome in Johannesburg for the first Test on 9 June but believes England can use that against the Springboks.
“You have to be able to exploit that and use it in a positive way. How can you use their dislike of the English to create an opportunity for yourself because you know at Ellis Park they will be unbelievably passionate and aggressive for the first 20 minutes. That creates opportunities for us. We have to be good enough to understand those opportunities and execute them.
“First it is about creating an understanding of [the history]. They need to understand why English teams haven’t won there in the past and then come up with an approach of how we will be ourselves. Like in any game of rugby, any physical contact sport, you have to understand the psychology of the opposition. You have to understand where they get their strength from.”
Tom Curry, one of the few players to emerge with credit from the record‑breaking defeat against the Barbarians, also knows what to expect against the Springboks. The 19‑year‑old, who has played in South Africa for England Under-18s, said: “At every age group South Africans just want to smash the English. It is what it is. You know what they are going to bring.”
Jones will finalise his 34-man squad on Tuesday and will name replacements for the injured Jack Willis and Cameron Redpath. Nathan Hughes and Piers Francis are the most likely additions while Willis’s absence means Curry appears to be the frontrunner for the No 7 jersey in the first Test on 9 June in Johannesburg.
“Eddie is pretty clear about what he wants from a seven. I just try to fit into the seven role in the team structure,” Curry said. “Just make sure I have speed at the breakdown and link the play. And work as hard as possible. Seven has got to be the hardest working player on the pitch. I am just going around busting a gut.”