ENGLAND landed in the Rainbow Nation with a club vs country storm continuing to brew.
But after checking into the Beverly Hills hotel and serving up some Hollywood one-liners, boss Eddie Jones got onto the serious business of facing South Africa.
This tour isn’t about “rugby’s Donald Trump,” Bruce Craig, and the Bath owners feud with Jones over injuries in the camp.
And Jones knows that.
Though what a way to distract from the real issues on hand – trying to win in Johannesburg on Saturday for the first time since 1972.
England are up against it, and defeat at altitude in four days would put Jones and his side under serious pressure.
After landing in the southern hemisphere, the Aussie said: “In world rugby who do you want to beat? The Springboks at Ellis Park – it is the spiritual home of rugby.
“Everyone who knows anything about rugby remembers that 1995 World Cup final and the change that that had for rugby and the country – as well as the value that had for sport in general.
“I remember watching the game very clearly. My wife and I had just got married and we had a little baby, Chelsea, and I remember my wife was doing the ironing and I was watching the game. That was back in Sydney.
“So to get the opportunity to play against the Springboks in the first Test of a Three Test series at Ellis Park is a special occasion for everyone involved. We are ready to rip in.”
If it wasn’t for England crashing so badly at their own World Cup in 2015 then Jones most likely would never have taken over at Twickenham.
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Having signed a deal at Cape Town’s Super Rugby side the Stormers, Jones was just eight days into the job when old
Twickers chief exec Ian Ritchie flew 10 hours south to sign him up.
Jones said at the time: “I never sought the job in England, they came and head-hunted me. It was very, very difficult to turn down. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.
“To all the fans out there, all I can do is express my regrets. I hope that you understand my position, I know it is a selfish decision and I again apologise for that.”
It might have looked like a gamble at the time, but 18 games and as many wins later and England were joint world-record holders with the All Blacks.
This summer they have to make a different kind of history in cities where Jones has had success for and against the Springboks.
Recalling a Rugby Championship clash in Jo’Burg whilst boss of the Wallabies, he said: “I think it was 2005 and we had beaten the Springboks conclusively the week before.
“We came here and I think it was special occasion for Nelson Mandela. We were waiting for the bus, the bus was late, we got a police escort and that was going slower than the bus.
“We got to the ground 50 minutes before the game. Went out, warmed up and then had a tribe going through our warm-up.
“Then we go back in and someone was sitting in the entrance to our changing room in a golf cart – it was Nelson Mandela.
“We couldn’t ask him to move, so had to wait patiently and we went into half-time 15 points down. That is a hallmark of a really good team – being able to control those uncontrollables.
“That is part of touring South Africa – you have to be resilient and let the uncontrollables go and get on with it. We have to be ready for everything. It will be hostile, but it’s fantastic and I am so excited about it.”
As a consultant to Jake White in 2007 Jones won the World Cup with the Boks.
And he feels that stint will help him bring down Rassie Erasmus’ new-look side as these two powerhouses collide.
He added: “I have a great affinity with Springbok rugby and a great affinity with rugby in South Africa and I cherish the relationships I have had here.
“And I cherish the opportunity to coach in what is going to be a great Test series. I don’t think about personal achievements. I think did I add value, and I think yeah I did add a small amount of value.
“I always talk about the house being built and painted – I just fixed up a few things along the way and I think it was very minor.”
Now Jones needs to fix up England too, before they need major surgery.
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