JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - England coach Eddie Jones said his team were heading in the right direction despite a fourth successive test loss and hailed South Africa’s rugby transformation, after an altercation with spectators at the end of Saturday’s dramatic 42-39 defeat to the Springboks at Ellis Park.
“If you saw today’s performance I’d be excited,” a jocular Jones told the post-match news conference after his side had contrived to let a 24-3 lead, after just 17 minutes, slip in an action-packed contest at the start of the three-test series.
“I’m disappointed we lost but there is a lot that says the team is going in the right direction,” he said.
“It’s always hard to play in these conditions. We started the game well. You wouldn’t think the altitude had a part. It was more of a possession and momentum swing thing. We could feel the game slipping away.
“As much as I’m disappointed for the loss, I’m happy about what happened today for Siya Kolisi to be the first black Springbok captain. I think that is a momentous occasion for rugby in general,” added Jones.
“Congratulations to South Africa for winning the game; for clawing back into the game. And I know it’s a big thing for South Africa because of Siya Kolisi.
“I’m not a politician. I will make a bad one. Transformation, first black captain, to win at Ellis Park, the spiritual home of the Springboks. It shows that transformation is working,” he added.
Jones is no stranger to altercations with the public, having earlier this year been accosted on a train after England were beaten by Scotland in the Six Nations.
But he made light of a verbal exchange with some Boks fans afterwards. “They’ve always got something to say here,” he initially told SkySports. Asked if he had responded, Jones added: “Of course I did.”
When asked exactly what he had said, the England coach replied: “That’s not for me to share with you. I’m sure it’s on a mobile phone somewhere in the world.”
At the later media conference, he added: “There was nothing with the fans. A bloke said something, so I asked him where I can get a nice bottle of Pinotage and we can have a chat. They said I can go find it myself.”
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Clare Fallon