Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has vowed to ignore the “noise” being made by his English counterpart Eddie Jones ahead of the two side’s three-Test series starting on Saturday.
The combative Australian has already ruffled feathers since his team arrived at the weekend, saying he expects the Boks to channel their “hatred for the English”.
He also, a tad bizarrely, recalled an incident in 2005 involving late President Nelson Mandela at Ellis Park that apparently was part of the Springboks’ “mind games” under then coach Jake White against his Australia side.
“In 2005, we had beaten the Springboks conclusively the week before. We came here and I think it was a special occasion for Nelson Mandela,” said Jones.
“We got to the ground 50 minutes before the game. We went out, warmed up and then had a tribe going through our warm-up. Then we go back in and someone was sitting in the entrance to our changing room in a golf cart – it was Nelson Mandela!
“We couldn’t ask him to move, so had to wait patiently and we went into half-time 15 points down. That is part of touring South Africa – you have to be resilient and let the uncontrollables go and get on with it. We have to be ready for everything.”
Jones is known for being an excellent coach but a divisive character who seemingly thrives on conflict – real or imagined.
Erasmus admitted he’s not used his counterpart’s antics but hopes to keep perspective on the verbal war that might be coming.
“I’ve only experienced Eddie’s verbal exchanges with people from an outsider’s perspective. I’ve never experienced it personally,” he said.
“You’re never sure what or when of even if Eddie is going to say something. To be honest, we’re so desperate to win that the moment we start worrying about these types of things, we’re in trouble.”
Instead, Erasmus believes both sides have far bigger things to worry about.
“I hope I don’t become sidetracked and I’m pretty sure the players won’t either. We have to remember, we’re emerging from a painful defeat last week,” he said.
“And England conceded 60 points against the Barbarians last week. I know we have our problems, but England clearly do too. It’s maybe time that both teams just focus on their own internal things.”