Eddie Jones: ‘We have to change the players’ behaviours and that isn’t easy’

• England coach blames indiscipline for Springboks’ comeback
• Jones says tunnel confrontation with fans was ‘about red wine’

Eddie Jones attempted to play down an incident in the tunnel at Ellis Park following his side’s thrilling 42-39 defeat by South Africa. Jones was verbally abused by supporters leaning over the railings after the final whistle and stood his ground for 10 to 15 seconds before being ushered away by players and staff.

Jones, who was also abused by Scotland fans after England’s defeat at Murrayfield earlier this season, later insisted the confrontation was no big deal. “They [SA fans] have always got plenty to say, especially when they win,” said Jones, who claimed he had merely invited a noisy fan to discuss his grievances over a bottle of wine.

“Don’t worry about one little conversation about a bottle of red wine in the tunnel. I was just asking them where I could get a good bottle of Pinotage and I’m still waiting for the answer. I might go back and see him later.”

The England head coach also insisted there were reasons for optimism despite his team’s failure to defend an early 24-3 lead. “It was a game we could have won,” said Jones. “I thought we were brilliant at times in the first 20 minutes but maybe we got seduced by the game.

“Our next 60 minutes was a mix of inconsistency and lack of discipline. We had a penalty count of 17-4 against us and it’s hard to win any Test match with that. I’m proud of the effort of the boys but we need to fix our discipline. We have to change the behaviours of the players and sometimes that isn’t easy. We’re not blaming the referee, we’re taking full responsibility for it.”

As for the decision to replace Nick Isiekwe with Brad Shields after only 36 minutes, Jones suggested it was a call he simply had to make. “We needed to change the momentum of the game. It was slipping away and the only way to do that is to change personnel. It did change it, we got back into the game and we almost won it.

“Our effort and attitude was outstanding. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a visiting team applauded off Ellis Park. We played with some real courage albeit with a lack of discipline. It was a big momentum game. While I’m desperately disappointed I also think [South Africa winning] is a great thing for rugby generally and the game here.”

South Africa’s coach, Rassie Erasmus, admitted he was relieved to have come away with a victory after such an unpromising first quarter. “It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted in our first Test at home and I was worried, because we had a lot of young players against a very experienced England side,” he said. “It could have gone from bad to worse but credit to our senior players for getting us back on track. We made too many errors, so there is a lot for us to work on.

“When we managed to keep the ball, England were under the same stress we were early in the game. There were a lot of young guys involved against a very experienced England side and it could have gone really badly for us. I’m proud of the guys ... I think that character is something we can take forward and build on.

“If the score had been 40 or 50 against us we would have sat here with long faces and worried with doubts about team selection. Now because we came back it makes it easier but there are a hell of a lot of work-ons.”

Siya Kolisi, South Africa’s first black captain in a Test, was also happy to have gained an immediate win as skipper: “The most important thing for me today was that we pitched up and played as a team. We didn’t start the game the way we wanted to but the hard work that we had put in during the week took away the pressure.”


Robert Kitson at Ellis Park

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