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 Telegraph.
“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 lights out.”
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 downfall.
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 tricks.