New DHL Stormers head coach Eddie Jones is one of the most experienced – and decorated – coaches in world rugby at present, but he is still very honoured at the prospect of taking up the reins of the Cape Town-based Vodacom Super Rugby franchise.
Jones, 55, was officially unveiled to the Cape Town media at DHL Newlands on Thursday and he spoke of his excitement of taking up a job at the best supported team in the new-look southern hemisphere competition.
“It’s an honour to have this opportunity to coach one of the oldest and most prestigious teams in the world,” said Jones, who was greeted by a huge amount of journalists on Thursday – his first appearance since moving to Cape Town late last week.
“Cape Town is a fantastic city. Western Province is one of the most prestigious unions in the world – there is so much history here the stadium (DHL Newlands). When the opportunity came up to coach the DHL Stormers – such a well supported team, the best in the competition – it was simply too good to ignore.”
Style of play is always a huge talking point and when asked about his philosophy, and the possible direction he would be leading the DHL Stormers into over the next few seasons, Jones revealed: “We have a very young squad here, but we’ve got to play some good rugby over the next couple of years.
“In my mind, what has to change is the way we attack. You want to take that traditional South African base of uncompromising physicality and set-piece strength and add some Western Province flavour.
“I have a history of producing attacking teams with the Brumbies and Japan (who beat the Springboks at the 2015 Rugby World Cup). It will take time to work with all the players here and get them to understand the way we want to play. (For instance) it took three years at the Brumbies. Hopefully it won’t take that long here, otherwise I might not be here (in the job)!
“(But) I can’t say how long it will take. Sometimes you get a good result early in the season and pick up confidence. Other times you lose and it can take you longer to develop. Ultimately, by the end of next season I want us to be playing a distinctive Stormers style of rugby.”
“I don’t want them to play like the Brumbies or Japan, I want them to play like the DHL Stormers. The aim is to win a trophy, but I want the team to light up DHL Newlands in the process.”
Jones will take over a team that excludes experienced Springbok stars Duane Vermeulen and Jean de Villiers – both of whom are, or will be, playing abroad – as the DHL Stormers head into a brave new era.
Of course, there is still some incredible talent within the union, as the young – average age of 22.6 – DHL Western Province side proved during the 2015 Absa Currie Cup competition and they will compliment new high-profile signings, JC Janse van Rensburg (prop), Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock) and Cornal Hendricks (wing), all of whom are yet to play Super Rugby for this region, as well as Bok young guns, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende.
Jones told the www.iamastormer.com website: “We haven’t got too many blokes with a scarcity of hair, it’s a very young squad. We’re going to have to develop these players slowly.
“(But) if you look across the squad, we’ve got good front-rowers, someone like Frans Malherbe was exceptional at the World Cup, so you’ve got the base of a good scrum.
“Then you’ve got Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit in the second row, so you’ve also got the base for a good line-out. In the back row, you’ve got Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi, Rynhardt Elstadt and Nizaam Carr, so there’s good depth there. Then the backs are exciting, and the depth is exceptional. So we’ve just got to get them to understand how we want them to play.”
With Demetri Catrakilis now in France, there is a potential selection gap at flyhalf as Kurt Coleman and young guns Robert du Preez and Jean-Luc du Plessis look to make the No.10 shirt their own in 2016 and seasons to come, perhaps.
“They’re obviously young guys,” said Jones when asked about his halfback – scrumhalf and flyhalf – options. “We’re just going to have to work with them.
“You saw someone like Dan Carter… he probably played his best rugby, his most consistent Test rugby, from 28 to 33 when he’s been through it all and learnt all the mistakes.
“We’re looking at 20/21/22-year-old guys. They’re going to go through some pain and we have to accept that and allow them to go through that pain, and then they’ll be very good players. But the reality is that there’s no shortcut to developing good No.9s and No.10s.
Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)