Jones backs Coetzee to revive Springboks


London (AFP)

England coach Eddie Jones believes Allister Coetzee can turn around South Africa's fortunes after a difficult year for the Springboks.

Jones's men open their end-of-year campaign against South Africa at Twickenham on November 12, having won all of their nine previous Tests under the Australian.

Coetzee, like Jones appointed after the World Cup, has had a far more difficult 2016.

South Africa, only beaten by two points in a World Cup semi-final loss to eventual champions New Zealand, have lost four of their last five Tests.

Their most recent outing saw them suffer a record 57-15 defeat in Durban by the All Blacks, a team they have traditionally rivalled for rugby union supremacy.

In trying to catch New Zealand, who recently set a new world record for a major rugby nation of 18 successive Test wins, Coetzee has had to take South Africa's racial politics into account.

During the apartheid era only white sportsmen, with the odd exception, were allowed to represent South Africa.

As a result, high-profile sports such as rugby union and cricket have made moves to field teams that more accurately reflect a country where 90 percent of the population is black.

The policy has not always been stated explicitly, but in March the South African Rugby Union backed a government demand that half the 2019 World Cup team be black.

Whether such an approach is good for South African sport remains a matter of intense debate.

- 'Enormous depth' -

But Jones, who guided Japan to a shock win over South Africa at last year's World Cup and briefly replaced Coetzee at the Stormers before taking the England job, said Wednesday: "That's South Africa, mate.

"We always used to have the saying 'T.I.A' which means 'This is Africa'," added Jones, a coaching adviser to the Springbok side that won the 2007 World Cup.

"They're the cards that you're dealt with and that's the country that you live in. There's no use complaining about it, you've got to get on with it and pick the side that suits the country’s politics and Allister will do that better than anyone else."

Jones was adamant South Africa, who have not lost to England since 2006, still had enviable rugby resources.

"If you look at the depth of players then they've got nothing to complain about, they've got enormous depth of players," he said.

"Everyone wants a strong South African side because it's good for world rugby."

Coetzee has not been the only coach in the spotlight lately, with Australia boss Michael Cheika unhappy at being depicted as a clown in a New Zealand newspaper prior to the All Blacks' record-breaking win over the Wallabies last weekend.

"We've all been on that side, mate," said Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England in Sydney.

"If we lose the game against South Africa then I'll probably be in the paper next day with a red nose on!," explained Jones, who oversaw England's 3-0 series win in Australia in June.

But Jones, who played alongside Cheika for Sydney club Randwick, added: "It's a bit of fun, obviously it's not fun when you're losing but he'll get over it -- he’s a tough boy!"

England will round off 2016 against Australia on December 3, with Fiji and Argentina also following the Springboks to Twickenham in November.

Jones will be without at least 10 first-choice players due to injury but he insisted: "I'm excited about it –- it's a chance to build the depth of the squad.

"In a World Cup year we need to be able to select from 45 guys who can play seven games in a row -- we don't have it at the moment.

"It's easy for young guys to come in and play one or two Tests well. The greatness of a player is delivering week in week out over six or seven Tests."