Cape Town - The likelihood of Eddie Jones becoming the new Stormers mentor appears all the more certain after the Australian confirmed his intention to leave Japan.
Jones, 55, on Tuesday confirmed that he will not be renewing his contract with the Brave Blossoms when it expires at the end of this year.
He was also expected to head up Japan’s new Super Rugby franchise next year, but has set the record straight.
"People assumed that as I had been named the director of the new Super Rugby side I would stay on. But that was just an administrative role not a coaching role. All I was doing was help get it set up,” Japanese news agency Kyodo quoted him as saying on Tuesday.
This paves the way for Jones to join the Stormers, and despite the Cape franchise's reluctance to confirm the news, indications are there that he will coach them in Super Rugby next year.
On Monday, the Western Province Rugby Union announced the signing of Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit from the Sharks.
It was the worst kept secret in Cape rugby circles as the Boland-raised 23-year-old returned to his region of birth.
After officially announcing the arrival of Du Toit, WP Rugby CEO Gert Smal hinted that the new coach would be announced in due course.
“We will also be concluding our search for a new Super Rugby coach shortly,” said Smal.
This writer feels Jones will make a positive contribution to the Stormers, who are still searching for a maiden Super Rugby title.
Jones was a consultant to Jake White’s Springboks at the 2007 Rugby World Cup where he helped the backs with their attacking game.
South Africa beat England 15-6 in that World Cup final in Paris, and Jones was praised for his role in the success, with former coach Nick Mallett calling the move to appoint him a "masterstroke" at the time.
Mallett credited Jones with improved backline play by South Africa at the tournament.
Interestingly, the man Jones is set to replace as Stormers coach - Allister Coetzee - was the Boks’ official assistant coach back then but he had copped criticism at the time for the team’s apparent lack of invention.
Coetzee was also heavily criticised during his tenure at the Stormers for turning them into a defensive-orientated side not showing enough enterprise.
Under Coetzee’s guidance, the Stormers were contenders, but fell short when it really mattered in the knockout phases of the competition.
Jones coached the Wallabies between 2001 and 2005 and had a successful spell with the Brumbies in Super Rugby where he helped them to their first title in 2001.
He has also coached at the Reds in Australia, Saracens in England as well as Suntory Sungoliath in Japan.