Eddie Jones warns England to expect the unexpected against South Africa
Eddie Jones insists England must be ready for South Africa’s forward-led onslaught in Saturday’s World Cup final while guarding against the possibility of an ambush.
The Springboks pack has steamrollered a path through the tournament, with Wales the latest victims to be battered into submission as they fell 19-16 at International Stadium Yokohama on Sunday.
Jones and his assistant coach John Mitchell watched from the stands as the ball rarely passed beyond the muscular Damian de Allende at inside centre while scrum-half general Faf de Klerk kicked 19 times in the semi-final.
Jones expects similar tactics when the rivals collide in the climax to the first Asian World Cup but is also wary that Rassie Erasmus may have some surprises planned.
“Rassie is a cunning coach, good coach, and has done a great job with the Springboks,” Jones said.
“We’re prepared for the unexpected because they can play in different ways. You saw Faf de Klerk do 15-20 box kicks against Wales, but we know that Pollard is an excellent kicker.
“The way he goal-kicked was fantastic. He is smooth, has a nice touch on the ball and that’s a wonderful advantage for them.
“We know they can play differently and we’re aware of that, but we also know that they are going to come through the front door.
“There are not many Springbok teams that don’t come through the front door, so we’ve got to be ready at the front door and have enough cover at the back door too.”
Jones is relishing the opportunity to take on the challenge of facing South Africa’s physicality having watched their power against Wales.
“It was a tough old game against Wales. It was interesting – both the coaches and captains said they anticipated the game to be an arm wrestle and it was,” Jones added.
“It was a tough, exacting semi-final. That’s what you expect at the World Cup and we are looking forward to playing against South Africa now.
“The only thing we are really worried about is how the Springboks turn up on Saturday.
“They won a tough semi-final and when you are in the final of a World Cup, you have done a lot of things right.
“They have a massively aggressive physical forward pack and they probably played their stronger team in the second half as opposed to the first.
“They are going to be a difficult side to beat but we know a couple of areas that we think we can expose in them and we’ll make sure we are well-prepared in those areas.”
England produced possibly the finest victory in their rugby history by dispatching New Zealand 19-7 but Jones is adamant there is still more to come.
“We played a great team in New Zealand but we don’t feel we’ve played as well as we can and the challenge for us is to keep improving,” Jones said.
“And there are small margins now. As you go through the tournament, the margins get smaller.
“The improvements you can make are still significant so we’re looking to see how we can keep improving for this week’s game and that’s the exciting part for us.”