Jones to lure Matfield to Stormers?

    2015-08-19 14:16

    Cape Town - He hasn’t signed anything yet but the Western Province management staff have already been told that Eddie Jones will be coaching Super Rugby next year so it looks like the big talking point in Cape rugby at the moment can be considered a done deal, reports.

    It is understood the appointment of the former Brumbies, Reds and Wallabies coach (plus of course a clutch of other teams such as Saracens) and current coach of the Japan national team will be announced within a few weeks. If there isn't a late glitch and for some reason pen is not put to paper, thus will end a search for Stormers director of rugby Gert Smal that included approaches or a feeling out process to several overseas coaches.

    Former Crusaders and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was one of those sounded out about his availability early in the year, and a serious approach was made to former Sharks coach John Plumtree, who is now assistant coach at the Hurricanes. It is understood from sources close to him that Plumtree gave what was considered a very attractive offer serious consideration but eventually turned it down on the basis that he didn’t want to uproot his family again.

    Durban based John Mitchell, the Lions’ Currie Cup winning coach of 2011 and a former All Black mentor, was targeted before Plumtree was, but turned it down on the basis that he wanted a four year contract rather than two and was uncomfortable with Smal’s insistence that he’d have to work with the same support staff that served under Allister Coetzee.

    Mitchell could still be involved as subsequent to him turning the Stormers down he was asked if he’d be prepared to work as a spot coach. That is the term given in Japan to coaches who serve as consultants and are called in every now and then to address specific areas of play but are not with the team constantly.

    Mitchell would probably still be available for such a role if Jones is coach - in his autobiography he didn't make any secret of his admiration for the man he pitted himself against at the 2003 World Cup - and the prospect of Jones perhaps consulting occasionally with Mitchell on strategy would be a mouth-watering one for Cape rugby fans wishing to see their team improve the attacking game they have struggled with over the past few seasons.

    However the more pressing need, once Jones’ appointment is confirmed, will be the appointment of a fulltime forwards coach to replace Matt Proudfoot, who has followed Coetzee overseas. And that is where it becomes interesting, for the man that Jones is said to be determined to recruit is current Springbok stand-in captain Victor Matfield.

    The veteran is currently focussed on the World Cup and has been linked to a possible playing career swansong with English club Bath, something denied by the club itself. Matfield has served as an assistant at the Bulls for a few seasons and was until a short while ago considered to be in the running to succeed Frans Ludeke as head coach of the Bulls.

    Getting Matfield to leave Pretoria for the Cape might sound like a tough ask and thinking of Matfield linked to the Stormers and not the Bulls is a bit like imagining Portuguese chicken marinated in ice-cream rather than peri-peri.

    However, such a move might be good for Matfield in furthering his rugby experience and developing his coaching ability - there is still no clarity about who will be head coach at the Bulls - and it could also be good for South African rugby if you consider that three of the four Bok locks of the future should be on the Stormers books next year.

    The two No 5s, Pieter-Steph du Toit, who is Matfield’s heir apparent in that position in the Bok team, and Ruan Botha could certainly learn something from Matfield’s astuteness as a lineout technician and strategist.

    It might all sound like pie in the sky for now, but Matfield is said to be the man Jones would want to be his forwards assistant.

    Robbie Fleck grew a lot as a coach during the last Super Rugby season and is currently picking up experience as a head coach with the WP under-21 team, and there is a lot of merit in allowing him to grow under Jones by continuing in his role as backs coach, while current WP Currie Cup coach John Dobson should also be accommodated in the new-look Stormers management team for 2016.

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