Jones: Don't write off Boks
Sydney - Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has warned against writing off the world champion Springboks despite their Tri-Nations form slump.
And Reds coach and former World Cup-winning Wallabies prop Ewen McKenzie says the extent of the Springboks' ills won't be known until after they face New Zealand in Johannesburg next Saturday.
The Springboks lost their first three away Tri-Nations Tests - 32-12 and 31-17 to the All Blacks in New Zealand and 30-13 to Australia in Brisbane on July 24.
Jones believes their decline is temporary and that they are more focused on the World Cup next year.
Jones also says they are trying to use the playing style that's been so successful for the Super 14 champion Bulls. ''They kicked more than any other team, offloaded less than any other team, but scored more tries,'' he said of the Bulls. ''Their lineout and kick-off was excellent. They kicked a lot and well. When they got ball in the opposition half they were able to keep the ball. That is how the Springboks want to play.''
The crux of the Springboks' woes, Jones says, is the absence of Bulls halfback Fourie du Preez for the rest of the season due to a shoulder operation. He is expected back next year. ''They are missing the one bloke who is the best player in the world - Fourie du Preez,'' he said. ''They have not only lost the bloke who kicks the ball best and who, with the ball, attacks the best, but that has put enormous pressure on their No.10 [Morne Steyn] who looked like he was going to be a player of 60 Tests but now looks like a player who will struggle to get to 40 because Fourie is not there. Once they get Fourie back they'll be a much better team.''
The Springboks have recalled fullback Francois Steyn from France, winger JP Pietersen and breakaway Juan Smith for their 29-man squad.
McKenzie said: ''They were dominating. Now they've fallen behind. It will be interesting to see what they do tactically. The next weeks will be pretty important. There's some desperate stuff happening over there. The All Blacks are in the box seat. If they get their bonus point to win the Tri Nations, they can relax and play without much care. That might be a daunting prospect.''
However, McKenzie believes the Springboks must change their game - by next Saturday's Test.
''They are playing a probably slightly outdated game plan,'' McKenzie said. ''It will be interesting to see if they play the same way … interesting to see who they pick at 10. Will they play Butch James and use the ball more or stick with [Morne] Steyn and play a fairly orthodox game?''
That Test should reveal how great the challenge will be for the Wallabies to win either - or both - Tests at Pretoria and Bloemfontein on the Highveld where they have not won since 1963. Not that McKenzie has ever shied away from taking on history. ''I don't think it's too big an ask,'' he said of the Wallabies' chances of winning there. ''I am sure they are going over there to win two games to solidify that second position - in the world rankings or [Tri-Nations].