DURBAN – International rugby’s master coach Eddie Jones is locked at two-a-piece against South African novice Rassie Erasmus. Appropriately, the decider, 17 months after their first ever Test meeting, is the World Cup final.
Jones’ coaching pedigree demands respect. He took Australia to the 2003 World Cup final after stunning the All Blacks in the semi-final. In 2007 he was the most important piece of Jake White’s Springboks World Cup-winning puzzle and in 2015 Jones led Japan to the biggest upset in World Cup history, when they beat the Springboks. Now he has turned England from the jokers of world rugby into the aces.
Every platitude paid to Jones after England’s humiliation of the All Blacks in last Saturday’s semi-final is deserving and accurate. Equally, the compliments that have come thick and fast to Erasmus, who in 18 months has restored Springbok pride and put the green and gold jersey back at the top table of world rugby.
Jones has a healthy regard for Erasmus’ tactical ability and a genuine love for Springbok rugby. There won’t be any underestimating Erasmus because of his limited international coaching experience. Equally, there will only be an acknowledgement that for England to win a second World Cup title, they’ll have to be even more physically opposing than was the case against the All Blacks.