The news that a foreign coach had been co-opted onto the Springboks ticket before leaving for Japan stirred fond memories for Bryan Habana.
The flying winger was part of the successful South African side that captured the Webb Ellis in 2007 when Eddie Jones, who had been hired by Jake White as a consultant to the team, was afforded great credit for his role in making that happen.
Nick Mallett wrote a piece in the Daily Telegraph at the time praising the Aussie’s confidence and impact on the training ground. And now, 12 years down the line, Felix Jones is following a similar path to the now England head coach.
John McFarland is another foreigner to have served on a Bok World Cup staff since, in his case in 2015, but he is an Englishman who had spent over a decade living and working in Pretoria by then.
Jones is completely new to this scene.
Erasmus turned to his old Munster assistant after the sudden loss to his staff of attack coach Swys de Bruin for health personal reasons. The players didn’t want a direct replacement who might end up complicating things on that side of the ball at this late stage, so the former Ireland full-back has been asked to focus on defence instead.
Erasmus, who sought to entice Jones to the Springbok setup before this, has spoken about the benefit of a fresh set of eyes at this stage described Jones as a true student of the game.
“First and foremost, Swys de Bruin has played a pretty pivotal role in, I want to say, the resurgence of South Africa over the last 12 or so months so I am sad to see him go,” said Habana, speaking on behalf of Land Rover, Official Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019, “but he has made that decision for personal reasons.
“Felix Jones would have worked pretty closely with Rassie when Rassie was at Munster a couple of years ago and Rassie really understands the value he adds.
“You heard what Joe Schmidt said as well in terms of being disappointed in terms of Felix having been a part of the Irish structure a couple of years back, but Felix is starting to put his footprint into international rugby and make a difference.
“I think Rassie sees it a a value-add for the Springboks to be able to get someone in who can be a different sounding board and bring a new perspective, just like we had when Eddie Jones was involved in 2007.”
The opportunity is well-timed for the Irish Jones who, along with Jerry Flannery, opted against accepting an extension to his contract with Munster under Johann van Graan late last season.
Working at Test level is an impressive next step in itself, but doing it with one of the world’s traditional heavyweights as they brace for the global centrepiece is even better again.
“I am happy for Felix because it is an opportunity to experience a different environment and structures but also to add value and continue improving his CV,” said Habana.
“For any incoming or upcoming coach, to get to the highest level you will always want to have a Rugby World Cup on your CV and you want to wish him the best.
“He has proven himself already as a coach. He was included in the Irish coaching structure by Joe Schmidt. He has done really well in Ireland and I think he can be very good for the Springboks.”
Land Rover is official Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019. With over 20 years of heritage supporting rugby at all levels, Land Rover is celebrating what makes rugby, rugby. #LandRoverRugby