The Springboks head return to action this weekend for the first time since they beat England in the Autumn Nations Series last November. Jacques Nienaber went up against Eddie Jones at Twickenham and came out on top. Eddie is now in charge of the Wallabies and will present an entirely different challenge this time around.
Eddie has suffered two stinging defeats to the Boks as Head Coach of England. The first being the 32 – 12 final of the Rugby World Cup at Yokohama Stadium in 2019 and the last of which put the proverbial nail in his coffin, a 27 – 13 loss at Twickenham. Eddie’s England pack struggled to front up to the Boks physicality when it counted most and their scrums folded like a wimbuks under the pressure of Frans Malherbe and co.
Whilst the English were happy to heap the blame squarely on Eddie’s shoulders and severed ties with the man, the Aussies saw a great opportunity to lure one of their own back. I am sure they will find out during the World Cup, that they made a mistake of gigantic proportions and that Steve’s tenure began prematurely. Eddie is an extremely astute coach and with the talent he has available to him at the Wallabies, I believe the rugby world will soon realise England were the problem and not the coach.
We had Matt Proudfoot on the Pod a few months ago and he was willing to foot the blame for the England scrum going backwards against the Boks but that speaks more to the quality of the man that he is, rather than to the underlying factors in the England side. Matt championed the Bok pack at the 2019 World Cup, a pack that was the envy of the World at the time. It is hard to then say the coach suddenly lost that skill when he joined England. You work with the squad you have available at the end of the day.
Eddie, astute as he is, will know that he needs some bruisers in his side to combat the ever-increasing physicality of the game. It is for this reason that he will be pleased to have the likes of Taniela Tupou, Samu Kerevi, Allan Alaalatoa,Big Willy Skelton and Rory Arnold at his disposal just to name a few. These players will add the size he needs and create the space out wide for the exciting Aussie backs to get into their groove.
The Wallabies have yet to name their side, but I am sure they will be looking to muscle up early at Loftus and I do predict a 6-2 split on the cards for them too. Eddie will want to come out firing and hit the Boks hard right from the get go. He will want to build a decent enough buffer, to allow for the tapering off that is bound to occur in the last 20 at altitude.
Eddie has the squad available and we know of his quality as a coach, he just has to overcome the mighty Springbok pack at Loftus, a feat none of his predecessors have achieved. RasNaber will have realised the threat before them and will have ensured the pack and their own 6-2 split on the bench are ready to come out and show the Wallabies that they are going to be fronted for the full 80.
One thing is for certain, whilst most coaches would hate the thought of immediately facing off with the team they have struggled against, Eddie will be relishing the opportunity to show just what he and his new side are capable of. If not the Boks, then the Bledisloe may be up for the taking.