Johannesburg - It was two days before Japan’s historic
victory over the Springboks that two colleagues and I turned up in Brighton to
view their team announcement and were shocked that the questions were being
solely directed in Japanese.
After being turned down when asking for an English
translation, Eddie Jones sat back in his chair and smiled, saying he would
field a few in English, according to SuperSport.com.
And the quotes he gave were exceptional. How the Boks were
tall timber and the Japanese would have to “chop them down”. How they would
have to dig deep and dig their way past the Bok boulders to win. It was classic
Eddie Jones. And when it was done, he stood up walked over to us and quipped
with a sly smile on his face: “Did you boys enjoy that?”.
The same happened after the game, when the world was still
in shock and Bok supporters stunned into submission. Eddie was asked for his
reaction, and again, it was classic Eddie.
“It’s like that horror movie mate, the one with the girl in
the shower and the knife, and all the time we were waiting for the knife to
come down. But it never did.”
But that’s Eddie. The showman, the quotable Eddie. The one
who loves to rile up the opposition, to put a bit of needle in and then to make
the game entertaining.
So when Jones this week said it was “easy to beat the
Springboks” he wasn’t being flippant. He was being Eddie. Behind every comment
there was a crafted purpose, and you can be sure that jones is more than just a
bit motivated to get one back over the Boks. With the All Blacks waiting a week
later, this weekend’s Twickenham game is what his side needs, a top clash
against a Southern Hemisphere side to test them. A game that will allow Jones
to move forward.
And the chirps serve a purpose. They market the game, they
promote it, and they add needle and spice to a clash that already is sold out,
that already will see the Boks under a bit more pressure than they would like.
All of it is part of a plan.
As Bob Dwyer, who Jones famously played at hooker years ago
quipped. Eddie Jones never takes prisoners.
“He calls a spade a shovel, Eddie,” Dwyer told the
“I consider myself a very direct Australian, but Eddie is
more so than I am. He takes no prisoners at all, and he quickly became known as
our lead nickname-bestower. For example, Simon Poidevin, our openside, was full
of determination and power. So, Eddie christened him ‘Venus de Milo’ - great
body, no hands.”
Poidevin echoes this in the same article, reminiscing about
how Jones had a full go at Sean Fitzpatrick in a Bledisloe Cup game.
“There was Eddie, this little half-Japanese hooker, giving
it to Sean Fitzpatrick,” Poidevin adds.
“Sledge, sledge, sledge throughout the whole game. He could
give an absolutely executing one-liner. Sure, the All Blacks’ scrum turned us
around. But they didn’t destroy us.”
Jones knows his audience all too well, and he knows when to
direct a barb and when to take one. And every comment, every quote is
made-to-order for the weekend’s match up. Jones is an anomaly in modern rugby,
a thinking sledger. A personality that won’t take a back seat. The antithesis
of a rugby quote cliché.
But away from the field Jones is not often credited for his
hard-working approach. A rugby devotee, he is known by players and coaches
alike as someone who never sleeps, who lives the game and will use every waking
moment to further that point.
Dwyer underlines this fact quite clearly.
“Eddie is absolutely tireless,” he says. “Sleep seems to
hold no interest for him. While he was in charge of the Wallabies, members of
his staff would joke about it. One of them got back at around 2am from an
evening out and sent a fax over to Eddie, thinking, ‘This will be a bit of a
laugh’. But he received an immediate reply.”
Springbok captain John Smit, who led the Boks to the World
Cup in 2007, also has fond memories of Jones. The Australian joined the Boks as
an assistant coach and worked with them in the lead-up and during the World
Cup, ultimately being a vital cog in their success.
“When Eddie was with us (in 2007) he didn’t come across as a
showman at all,” Smit says.
“He was quite calm, cool and collected. He was very sure of
himself, but not in an arrogant way. He had all the experience, and isn’t the
kind of guy who would doubt his own opinion.
“But he was also in a different role then. He was an
assistant coach, and there was no real pressure and he came in late. He was
there to help guide and mark us where we were and thought we were.
“The first session we had, we had a shadow session and
afterwards I asked him what he thought. He said ‘ yeah maybe a four’. And he
said it in a way that made us realise we weren’t quite the finished product
even though we were almost at a World Cup.
“He always raises the standards and isn’t the type of guy
who will be satisfied with not much. That impressed us and he was quite honest
about his assessment but he said it in a nice way and gave you ways to fix it.
He would give you the tools to make yourself better. That will be probably one
of the biggest things I remember.
“He had a calming effect on Jake and us, because of his
experience and because he had been there before. And most of us - excluding Os
(Du Randt) were experiencing this for the first time.
“My moment probably would be that morning at Bishops where
he gave us a four out of 10, and I quite honestly thought we had shot the
This weekend Jones will be hard at work trying to figure out
Rassie Erasmus’ game plan and come up with a counter.
And the Boks should beware. Because while Jones distracts
with his latest quotable moments, behind the scenes he is hard planning their
Eddie the coach takes precedent over Eddie the showman.
Because at the end of the day the results matter. And Jones knows this all too
well. He hasn’t survived this long in international rugby without winning a few
games he never should have.
And many of them while everyone was distracted by his party
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