A coach on the cusp
If you look closely enough you might just be able to make out the thin fissures that have begun to creep across the facade of infallibility that once clung to Fast Eddie Jones.
A year ago a last-gasp try by Toutai Kefu managed to snare a debut Tri-Nations title for the former Brumbies coach, but any examination of his overall record paints the picture of a coach on the cusp.
Since stepping into the shoes of Rod Macqueen, Jones has had an in-and-out kind of record with the Wallabies. His sides have played 11 times but in contrast to Macqueen’s 81% winning ratio, Jones’s sides have managed just 54% from six wins. If you strip out victories over Wales and Spain, his record against top-five teams falls to a modest 44%.
So when Jones tries to tell the Springboks that they’re under pressure you know what he really means: “I’m under pressure.”
The difference between him and Springbok coach Rudolf Straeuli is that Jones will be given time to sort it out.
Earlier this year he gave his side 21/2 out of 10 on the road to being the finished product.
What Jones has been doing is up-sizing his backline and using them to strike wider than the normal flyhalf channel that has been a highway clogged with runners and defenders over recent seasons.
The new Wallaby game plan is to have players equipped to do more than one job and Jones appears to be ready to let them have more of their head than the meticulous Macqueen was wont to allow.
And you can be sure he has carefully thought it all through. Those who know him say he is obsessed with the game and has few interests outside of the sport. Jones is on the training field every day, calling the shots, directing the heavy traffic.
A win against the Springboks and the rest of Jones’s coaching career starts here; a defeat and the pressure before next weekend’s Bledisloe Cup decider in Sydney will ratchet up significantly.