'Felix has contributed a lot in a short space of time' - Boks impressed with Jones

The former Munster attack coach linked up with Rassie Erasmus’ men just before the World Cup.

JOE SCHMIDT MIGHT not be too happy about it, but Felix Jones has settled into life with the Springboks very well indeed.

The 32-year-old Irishman linked up with Rassie Erasmus’ squad just before the World Cup in Japan, joining in a role that involves analysing opposition defence and generally helping the Boks to be a better attacking team.

Jones was the backs and attack coach at Munster under Erasmus and clearly did enough to convince the experienced South African of his coaching qualities. Indeed, Erasmus attempted to lure Jones to the Boks when he moved home from Munster in the first place in 2017.

felix-jones-and-rassie-erasmus Jones and Erasmus at Munster training in 2016. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Jones turned down that advance and remained at Munster under new head coach Johann van Graan, but opted to reject a contract extension offer at the end of last season. With Springboks attack coach Swys de Bruin then stepping away from the set-up in August due to personal reasons, the door opened once more for Jones.

He’s still only weeks into his time with the South Africans, who kick off their World Cup in what will be a thrilling encounter against New Zealand on Saturday in Yokohama, but Jones has already impressed the Boks set-up.

Erasmus, defence coach Jacques Nienaber, and head of athletic performance Aled Walters knew all about Jones from Munster, but the South African players have been learning about Jones’ obsessively detailed approach to the game.

“I sat next to him on a train I think the second day he came and the first thing he started was pulling out his computer and working with us individually,” said flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit at a very relaxed Boks team hotel beside Disneyland in Tokyo Bay today.

“He is a hard worker and he understands the game very well. South Africans enjoy that bit more of a personal touch and he focused more on the individual with us. That’s something different that he has brought.”

Mzwandile Stick, one of Erasmus’ other assistant coaches, has been similarly impressed with Jones and pointed to the kind of knowledge that he brings into the Boks’ camp.

Jones spent a week with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland on their tour of Japan in 2017 and had a strong relationship with the Ireland boss, meaning he has obvious knowledge of their plays and tactical focuses.

felix-jones Jones joined the Boks last month. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Ireland could potentially face the Boks in a World Cup quarter-final and Schmidt has described Jones’ presence in the South Africa camp as “awkward.”

Stick is glad to have Jones on the Boks’ side, particularly as the Irishman also has an understanding of New Zealand rugby. 

“One thing that he has brought to our side is that he understands the European sides very well and he also has a good relationship with some of the coaches in New Zealand so that is some information that we managed to get from him,” said Stick today.

“I have to be honest and say that he is a very nice guy and it is nice to work with someone who is passionate about his attack. There is a lot that he is contributing to our side, most recently with his attack and his philosophy behind the attack.

“So, he has really contributed a lot in a short space of time. You saw in the game we played against Japan [last weekend], the opportunities we had in the game and we managed to capitalise on them and it was because of his contribution also. That is adding value on our side.

“We are playing against one of the best sides in the world, the All Blacks, this weekend and we know that they are going to be prepared when it comes to this game. They also have some smart coaches around their system, so it is going to be a tough one.”

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It most certainly is going to be a tough opener for the Boks, though they have drawn with and beaten the Kiwis in the past two years. 

Interestingly, Stick called for referee Jérôme Garcès and his assistants to treat both sides equally.

eben-etzebeth The Boks take on the All Blacks on Saturday. Source: Photosport/Grant Down/INPHO

“Hopefully the match officials will also respect the game because if you look at the way things are currently between us and New Zealand, we are more balanced now,” said Stick.

“Normally, if you look at the previous history when it comes to the All Blacks they dominate when it comes to Test match level and it is always the case when they go to the World Cup sometimes that they are favourites.

“So, once again, we are at an equal level at the moment. Even though they are number two in the rankings, they are one of the best teams in the world but if you look at the top five teams currently in the world rankings you will feel that all those five teams have got a better chance to win the World Cup on a better day because of the results between the Northern Hemisphere sides.

“When England played Wales at home they won and then it was a different result when they played in Wales. It’s been a proper build-up to this World Cup. Hopefully, the officials will treat every team equally and respect the game and also the fans.”

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Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo Bay

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