Eddie Jones, the new Wallaby coach, said what he thought during the build-up to the Cook Cup Test between England and Australia at Twickenham 10 days ago: that the Red Rose team selection was a bit on the radical side, that Clive Woodward's tactical vision might be a touch utopian, that Jason Robinson would find the full-back position rather more testing than hanging around on the left wing. What Jones did not discuss was the possibility of an English victory, which made him look just a trifle daft come the Sunday morning.
You will not catch Harry Viljoen making a similar mistake. The Springbok coach, scarcely more experienced than Jones in the intricacies of the international game but far too cute to leave himself a hostage to fortune, had all the answers to all the questions when he appeared in London yesterday, and none of them betrayed the slightest hint of the superiority complex traditionally associated with teams from South Africa.
Yes, England presented a formidable challenge, particularly on their own mudheap; yes, Woodward had succeeded in refining Red Rose tactics to the extent that his team were now as threatening in attack as they were parsimonious in defence; no, he did not expect a repeat of last year's blood-and-snot battle between the two sides, when there were more blood-bins per minute than in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction combined. Indeed, he even ventured the opinion that a South African success would represent an important landmark in his attempt to push the Boks into the 21st century.
"When you install a new system, mistakes will be made – and yes, I've made mistakes," Viljoen said. "But someone had to break the ice, because we didn't have a system. We've introduced new players since last year, and they are doing new things. We could have continued with the same side, played in the same style, gone about our business with the same aggression. But that would have been short-termist. I've taken some long-term decisions, and while that is not easy in South African rugby because of the balance that has to be struck with winning Tests, I'm excited by the players we've identified.
"England are further down the track; they've added a great deal of detail to what they do and they are a much better side than when they beat us at Twickenham 12 months ago. Clive has stuck to his guns, and is using the resource of rugby league to his best advantage. We do not have that resource in South Africa; we cannot sign up a world-class player from a different code and bring him in at Test level. So I would definitely say we are playing a smart team this weekend, a team that has its system up and running."
The Boks, who put eight tries past the Italians in Genoa at the weekend having lost a tight game with France the previous Saturday, could field as many as six first-time visitors to Twickenham. Conrad Jantjes, a ridiculously gifted sportsman who played provincial cricket as a 17-year-old and also featured in South Africa's under-23 football squad, is in line to play at full-back, while Trevor Halstead and Dean Hall are also pressing for back-line places. Up front, Lukas van Biljon is the hooker in possession, while Victor Matfield and Joe van Niekirk are possible starters at lock and flanker respectively. Viljoen, who names his side tomorrow, said Breyton Paulse and Joost van der Westhuizen, who took knocks against Italy, would definitely be fit.
Meanwhile, the Romanian coach, Mircea Paraschiv, has resigned following his side's 134-0 defeat at Twickenham three days ago. "I see no challenge in going on any more," said the former international scrum-half. At the same time, the president of the national union, Dumitru Mihalache, announced that he would not seek re-election when his term of office expired at the end of the month. It has been a desperate few days for a proud rugby nation.
* Wales have lost the winger Anthony Sullivan, the prop Iestyn Thomas and the centre Allan Bateman – who were injured in Saturday's win over Tonga – for Sunday's game against Australia. Llanelli winger Wayne Proctor, Neath prop Duncan Jones and Newport centre Andy Marinos have joined the squad.Reuse content