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Irish eyes could prove vital for Springboks in World Cup campaign

Irish eyes could prove vital for Springboks in World Cup campaign
FILE PHOTO: Ireland's Felix Jones (C) runs with the ball during their international rugby test match against Georgia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin November 16, 2014. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton -
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Cathal McNaughton(Reuters)
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By Nick Said

NAGOYA, Japan (Reuters) – South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus has hailed the impact of his new defence tactician Felix Jones, and picked Ireland and New Zealand as the most impressive of the teams in the early stages of the Rugby World Cup.

Former Ireland utility back Jones joined the Springbok technical team four weeks ago after attack coach Swys de Bruin suddenly resigned for health reasons.

Jones’ strength is defensive organisation, and rather than find a like-for-like replacement for De Bruin, Erasmus felt his attributes would be more beneficial at the late stage of preparations.

The pair previously worked together at Munster and it has been an inspired signing, according to the Springbok coach.

“I sat down the players and we agreed we cannot change our attack philosophy now. They said they would rather like to get someone in to help us analyse the opposition’s defensive structures,” Erasmus told reporters in Nagoya on Wednesday.

“It’s something that we don’t really need for the Southern Hemisphere teams that we play on a regular basis, but knowing we will probably play Scotland or Ireland, and maybe England and so on, I know how good Felix is at that.

“The analysis he does on individual players and team defensive structures is phenomenal and his work ethic … it wasn’t somebody that I had to convince to think the way we think.”

Jones, 32, played 13 times for Ireland, including a 29-15 victory in Dublin in 2014 in which six of the current Springbok squad played.

“He has slotted in really well with the boys, he is a young guy and so associates with them really well.

“We will tap into his brain. He does a lot of work individually with the players to help them get better.

“In the Northern Hemisphere there is a lot more focus on small details that we in South Africa take as brute talent and don’t try to refine. That is something I want to change in our rugby.”

The Springboks and Ireland are on course for a potential quarter-final meeting in Tokyo on Oct. 20 and Erasmus says he was impressed with the Irish performance in the resounding 27-3 Pool A victory over Scotland on Sunday.

“Apart from New Zealand they were the only other team that put in a full 80 minutes of constructive, well-planned, decisive and clinical rugby (in the opening matches),” he said.

“Physically and tactically they were really good, the same as New Zealand. Those are the two teams that I think have been really consistent in the last two years and they will both be a really tough opponents.”

The Boks are next in action on Saturday against minnow neighbours Namibia at the City of Toyota Stadium.

(Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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