DURBAN – South African rugby fans know Eddie Jones better than most opposition coaches. The Australian was part of Jake White’s World Cup coaching team, he was even briefly hired as Stormers coach, before jumping ship to the England post.
The move was well justified, as Jones swapped Newlands for Pennyhill Park, in Surrey; his first year in charge of England in 2016, resulted in a 100 percent win ratio, including a historic three-match whitewash over Australia.
Last year was almost equally as good, as England lost just one game, against Ireland in the Six Nations. But 2018 saw a change. England have lost five games in a row.
The pressure is now squarely on England, and their coach, as the British Media continue to crucify Jones and some of his players. However, the attack on the national side seems a little harsh, when put in perspective.
Under Jones’ tenure, the English have won 25 games, and lost six. However, the recent poor patch has the English public up in arms.
To put things in perspective, Allister Coetzee won 11 matches in his tenure of 25 games before the axe finally fell. Coetzee struggled through his tenure due to a number of reasons, many out of his control.
Jones on the other hand has only recently struggled, and it is his former strengths that are starting to be picked apart. He is being questioned on his selection policies, such as picking Nick Isiekwe only to humiliate the 20-year-old by replacing him after 36 minutes. His infamous, and effective, autocratic style is also being called into question as it seems to be having a counterproductive effect.
It is not that England are suddenly a bad team, or that Jones has run them into the ground, they have simply hit a rough patch. The loss to the Barbarians in a high-scoring affair was roundly criticised, and to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against the Springboks must have been hugely frustrating.
There is still redemption on the cards however. England are not out of it, but they do have their backs against the wall. One thing is for sure, the only way is up for the English, and with the pressure being all over them, and the praise all over the Boks, there is every chance of a dramatic upset to play out in Bloemfontein. It really is up to England to lead their own fightback, as they have the talent and ability.
But it is also up to the Boks to take the positives from Johannesburg and turn it up a notch as there is still plenty of room for improvement.