Eddie Jones tells players to use Springboks' 'dislike' of the English as motivation
Eddie Jones will spell out to his players when they assemble in camp on Tuesday that they need to confront the Springboks’ inherent ‘dislike’ of the English if they are to create history by winning a series in South Africa for the first time.
England, bolstered by the arrival of a ten-strong Saracens’ contingent, have only ever won three test matches on South African soil and Jones believes this underwhelming record is due to added desire in Springbok ranks fuelled by historical anti-English feelings in the country.
“That is definitely part of it, the certain cultural issues between the two countries that provides great motivation for the South Africans,” said Jones. “I probably understand the South African rugby psyche as well as anyone having had (coaching) experiences there.
"And I know what they will be like when they play England. You have to be able to exploit that and use it in a positive way - how you can use their dislike of the English to create an opportunity because you know at Ellis Park (for the first test), they will be unbelievably passionate and aggressive.
"In any game of rugby, in any physical contact sport, you have to understand the psychology of the opposition. You have to understand where they get their strength from. They (the England players) need to understand why it is like that, why English teams haven’t won there in the past and then come up with an approach of how we will be ourselves.”
New England captain, Owen Farrell, will be able to lend his own testimony to Jones’s exhortations having been part of an England squad that was subjected to a frenzied Springbok power play in the opening quarter of the second test at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on his first England tour in 2012.
Stuart Lancaster’s side were left reeling from that ferocious, full-frontal assault as the Springboks ran in three tries within the first 19 minutes although they did recover despite eventually losing 36-27. Ben Youngs, Joe Marler and Chris Robshaw started that day with Farrell coming off the bench.
There is little doubt that Rassie Erasmus’ side will be imbued with the self-same fierceness and pride in the Springbok jersey that characterised his own international career and which he took into his time coaching at Munster until returning back to South Africa.
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Erasmus created his own bit of history on Monday when announcing that Stormers’ back-row forward, Siya Kolisi, will be the first black player to captain the Springboks. Kolisi’s appointment is far more than gesture politics as the 26 year old has led his franchise with authority and was one of South Africa’s stand-out performers last season. In the absence of the injured Warren Whitely and Eben Etzebeth, Kolisi steps into the breach.
Erasmus named the most representative squad in South African history when selecting 20 players of colour in a 43-man squad. A 26-man party will travel to Washington DC for Saturday’s one-off game against Wales while a more experienced core will remain in South Africa to prepare for the series against England. Erasmus has reversed the trend of previous regimes by bringing in five players from overseas, including Sale Sharks scrum-half, Faf de Klerk and Wasps’ full-back, Willie le Roux.
“We had a pretty good idea of what their squad was going to be,” said Jones. “It’s a strong squad. They’ve brought back some key players from overseas for leadership and a bit of direction. It’s going to be a challenging series. But we’re going over there to win. It always comes down to the fact that the first thing you’ve got to do is beat history. History shows that England have never won a series in South Africa.”
To that end, Jones will spend the days prior to departure embedding the game strategy and integrating players such as Billy Vunipola who came through an impressive 60 minute shift in the Premiership final without reporting any problems with his troublesome hamstring.
“I thought he played well, along with Mako, Maro (Itoje) and Owen (Farrell) who were absolute stand-outs in the final.” said Jones. “Take those four out and it might have been a different game. We have to re-educate the 15 players coming in. We have made some changes to the way we play. We need to re-educate those players and then at the end of the week we will do a bit of work.”
Wasps’ back-row forward, Nathan Hughes, is expected to be called up to replace club teammate, Jack Willis, who has been ruled out for several months with cruciate knee damage.