CAPE TOWN – The Springboks are good enough to win the Rugby World Cup next year, says England coach Eddie Jones despite his team emerging 25-10 victors in the final Test at Newlands on Saturday night.
Rassie Erasmus’ side were unable to adapt well enough in the wet and slippery conditions, while England’s pack laid the foundation for the win with a powerful display and dominance at the breakdowns.
But Jones had seen enough in the opening two games that the Boks won in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein to feel that they can compete for the title.
He pinpointed the South Africans’ work off the ball as one of the main growth areas – a task that assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has specifically been brought in for.
“I would’ve said that (they can win the World Cup) six months ago. You’ve got bloody good young players, and it was always (going to be a case of) this side will come together,” Jones said on Saturday night.
“It’s an incredible depth of talent you’ve got here, and even though you’ve got a lot of players overseas, you’ve still good players coming through. I think Rassie’s done a good job of getting some wins to the side early.
“You can see the big difference between the Springboks now and the Springboks six months ago is that they worked harder off the ball – much harder off the ball.
“They have a strong maul, which is a traditional strength of South African rugby. Then when the opportunity comes, they’ve got the ability to spread the ball with the space.
“They’ve got Willie le Roux on the outside who makes great decisions, so there’s some really good gains for the team. And they’ll continue to get stronger.”
Jones was relieved to be on the right side of the scoreboard after a tough trip to South Africa, amid increasing criticism from the English press for his tactics and selections.
“Yeah, it lasts for three or four hours, and then you’re back on the treadmill again. Feel better than I did the previous two weeks – it’s all on again boys! We’d like to play South Africa next week, because I think we are coming to a peak now,” he quipped.
“So we’re trying to arrange a game at Twickenham for next week! We will hold back Super Rugby for a week!
“It was (small margins in it). I think if anything, the team is overeager to play well. They probably felt the pressure of the scoreboard and losing some games. And today, we really focused on just playing each play as it comes – play that play well, then focus on the next phase.
“I thought it was a great series of rugby. For that healthiness of Test rugby, it was fantastic. A South African side revitalised, well-coached, good balance of players, played some good rugby. A young England side here finding its way, and the first two games, South Africa were too good.
“They deserved to win the series, but there’s only small margins in it.”