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Will SA's Eddie Jones please stand up

Jacaranda FM Sports Editor Trevor Cramer shares former Springbok lock and captain Victor Matfield's opinion that there is a dire need for an imposing figure like Eddie Jones in SA Rugby in the wake of one of the Springboks' worst seasons in memory.

Victor Matfield

If anyone is familiar with the agony of defeat at the hands of one of World Rugby's minnows, it is former Springbok lock forward Victor Matfield.


The highly-acclaimed Matfield, still generally considered to have been one of the best locks in the world, had to absorb the enormity of the Boks' 34-32 defeat by Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Much like coach Allister Coetzee and captain Adriaan Strauss this past weekend in Florence, then coach Heyneke Meyer apologised profusely to the nation following that humiliation by the Brave Blossoms. Critics described it at the time as 'the biggest shock in rugby history, bar none'.

Now the Boks' defeat at the hands of 14th ranked Italy also ranks among the biggest upsets in World Rugby, leaving the Boks with a dismal record of seven defeats in 11 starts this season.

And there is no let-up for the underperforming Boks, with Wales lying in wait on Saturday in Cardiff. 


But apologies just don't cut it anymore with an unforgiving, fickle rugby public.


Even SA Rugby President Mark Alexander issued a carefully-prepared statement within an hour of the final hooter sounding in Florence to try stem the fire-storm that would ultimately arise.


"It would be easy to lay the blame for that defeat at one door or another and look for scapegoats but it would also be an oversimplification. All of us within South African rugby need to look at ourselves and ask what we could have done differently in aid of the Springbok cause."


Matfield, a former Bok and Bulls skipper, believes weak leadership across the rugby spectrum may just lie at the root of the problem.


"We need someone very strong to lead this process that was outlined at the Coaching Indaba last month. They got someone from outside to lead that process. 

There should be someone at SA Rugby strong enough to take control and sell the dream to everyone and tell them 'This is how we need to do things', " said Matfield.


"People need to buy in and feel they want to follow that plan," added the former Bok lock.


There appears to be a common thread to all this and even Matfield uses the hard-headed Aussie Eddie Jones to illustrate his point.


Jones mastermined the Japanese miracle last year and brought them within points differential of making it to the quarter-finals of World Rugby's showlpiece tournament. He has followed that up by turning England rugby around since their humiliating exit in the group stages on home soil last year, coaching them to 12 wins on the bounce.


"A year ago after the World Cup they (England) felt exactly what we are feeling right now and now they are unbeaten in 12 games," said Matfield. 


He was, however loathe to bandy the word 'crisis' around. "We just need someone strong enough to stand up and say 'Listen this is how we are going to do it.' 


"We need the best people involved from Under-21 level right through to Bok level. Eddie (Jones)  came in and gave England a new vision and made everyone believe in his plan. It's about installing the best people in key positions and getting them to all follow that vision," said Matfield.


By 'key positions' we can't help including the upper administrative echelons of our game - people with nothing but the game at heart. But the big task is getting them to put all other agendas on the back burner and focus solely on following that common vision, as Matfield has suggested.


Make no mistake, like every South African rugby fan, Matfield is hurting. But mention the 2015 Rugby World Cup to an English rugby fan today and it is probably erased from the memory bank already.


We pray that by the same time in 2017, this year will be nothing but a bad memory and Springbok rugby will be back on course towards adding a third World Cup title to their trophy haul.  


Will South Africa's Eddie Jones please stand up and be counted.


SA Rugby -- it's over to you.

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