England head coach Eddie Jones thinks his side will have to play ‘rope-a-dope’ rugby against South Africa on Saturday to avoid getting drawn into a slugfest with one of the most physical sides in the world.
The Six Nations champions will be aiming to register their first win over the Springboks since 2006 in their first Test of the November Series at Twickenham, and Jones thinks it will be a battle of wits.
“When Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman, he had to find ways of getting around him,” Jones told the England Rugby website.
“Playing against a physically aggressive side, you have to play smart.”
Jones, whose side are unbeaten in 10 matches, is confident that England can execute rugby’s version of rope-a-dope on Saturday, but in order to do so, must avoid playing to South Africa’s strengths.
“You don’t want to go wide against South Africa because that is what they want,” he said.
“South Africa were the originators of rush defence, so we have to be smart about how we use the ball.”
Jones is well educated in the Boks’ brand of rugby – after serving as a technical director in 2007 when they won the Rugby World Cup – and warns of the high importance of stopping their attack at source.
“If you are not physical in rugby, you may as well be playing volleyball or curling.”
“It is about contesting that first set piece, we have to make sure South Africa don’t win the ball,” he said.
Jones suggests that in order to land the knockout blow against South Africa on the weekend, England will have to force them to play from an unstructured situation.
He added: “South Africa are a very structured side, they play the game like a physical game of chess.
“They know exactly where they want to go and they do it with force, and so we have to be good at not letting them win the ball in the right place and on that second and third phase, not letting them get momentum.”