DURBAN – With the first Test against the Springboks looming at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday, England coach Eddie Jones still has memories of the day when Nelson Mandela was the star turn at a Test match at the stadium.
Speaking at Sunday afternoon's conference in uMhlanga just outside Durban where the team are based until Thursday before flying to Johannesburg, Jones remembered a golf cart driving Mandela at a match 13 years ago.
“I think it was 2005 and we (Wallabies) had beaten the Springboks conclusively the week before. We came here and I think it was a special occasion for Nelson Mandela,” Jones said. “We were waiting for the bus, the bus was late, we got a police escort and that was going slower than the bus.
“We got to the ground 50 minutes before the game. We went out and warmed up. Then we go back in and someone was sitting at the entrance to our changing room in a golf cart – it was Nelson Mandela.
“We couldn’t ask him to move, so had to wait patiently and we went into halftime 15 points down. That is part of touring South Africa – you have to be resilient and let the uncontrollable go and get on with it. We have to be ready for everything.”
Meanwhile, Jones is well aware that this three-Test series with the opening match at the former Ellis Park something of a fortress for the Boks as since 1972 no English team has won in Johannesburg.
“It will be hostile but it’s fantastic and I am so excited about it. In world rugby who do you want to beat? The Springboks at Ellis Park – it is the spiritual home of rugby,” Jones said.
"We need to be physically and mentally ready. I think new Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will bring back traditional Bok values such as strong defence, strong kicking, good chasing, strong set piece.
"Wherever Rassie’s coached, those teams have always had those attributes, so I wouldn’t expect the Boks to be anything less than that. They’ve got some good players back from overseas and they will play with an enormous pride for the jersey, that much we do know.
"The hallmark of a really good team and when touring South Africa is that you have to be resilient, control what you can, and to be ready for everything. I’m sure it’s going to be hostile, but to be a great team, you have to be able to do great things on great occasions.
"That’s what this will be, all the talk is about the Springboks’ revival and that they’ve got a coach who has probably been earmarked for [the job for] some time. There’s a lot of hope and expectation. We’re coming here and want to get back to winning ways, and then we want to win the World Cup next year, and part of that process is beating South Africa in South Africa."
African News Agency (ANA)