Cape Town – There’s seldom justifiable cause anyway to give a visiting international head rugby coach a torrent of abuse.
But it just seemed even less warranted – not to mention badly timed – that England’s much-travelled Eddie Jones reportedly copped some crude words from a handful of Springbok fans after Saturday’s 42-39 defeat for his charges in the first Test at Emirates Airline Park.
The formerly-named Ellis Park is traditionally a harsh, pretty rough-and-ready place for visiting teams, given the special levels of din generated by home supporters and the stadium’s bleak, largely downmarket location that somehow adds to the feeling of hostility.
But it was crossing a line if, as has been quite widely reported, he was indelicately taunted by a group of Bok supporters at the railings above the players’ tunnel following completion of the thrill-a-minute Test match.
Fortunately it is almost beyond doubt, I’d suggest, that the vast majority of elated Bok fans would have generously acknowledged the role England – and by extension their wily, often charismatic mastermind – played in the giddying, 10-try spectacle.
I’ve always felt Jones has been good for the game’s marketability – in often challenging times, let’s face it – with his honest, unreserved public soundbites and mischievous but usually good-spirited attempts to get under the skins of rival teams and their planners.
Possibly not handling their refreshment (which may not have been ice cream) very well, it seems a small group of the Ellis Park faithful were quite the opposite of humble in victory – enduringly one of sport’s greatest qualities – as the respective players and managements went to the dressing rooms.
It was decent of Jones (remember, under mounting pressure back home as England have lost five matches, albeit one non-Test, in a row) to largely pooh-pooh the incident when probed afterwards.
He might, after all, have made a meal of it as a deflective device from his current troubles; I can think of a few sports coaches who could have gone down that route.
Instead he tactfully summed it up as some kind of dispute over where to track down a worthy bottle of pinotage, South Africa’s signature own-origin variety of red wine.
The exchange, I imagine, will have been considerably fruitier than that.
Now some Stormers enthusiasts may beg to differ, considering the Tasmanian-born rugby guru’s infamous couple of days at the helm of that franchise and expressed love of “Table Top Mountain (sic)” — just ahead of being irresistibly seduced by the lure of Twickenham pounds — but the 58-year-old has overwhelmingly been a good friend of South African rugby.
You have only to speak to some of the most legendary figures of the last World Cup-winning Springbok team, of 2007, to gauge the fondness and reverence they had for Jones when Jake White vitally coaxed him into their ranks as a technical advisor for the tournament.
He was given fitting credit for helping infuse thrust and sparkle to the Bok backline at that event.
Not allowed to wear a Springbok blazer given his “foreigner” status, so curtailed to the squad tracksuit, Jones was later given a blazer anyway as compensation by one of the most decorated Springboks ever, Bryan Habana.
Before last Saturday’s Test, he was far from shy in the television lead-up to remind of the special place it still had in his wardrobe.
So the reported, chortling abuse of Jones leaves a bad taste.
Perhaps some well-meaning local winemaker might consider giving him a top-of-range case of pinotage, in line with truer South African hospitality, to make up for the indignity he suffered from a boorish minority.
At very least, avoidance of too much raspberry on the nose for Jones, if you like, might be a more suitable approach from the good folk of Bloemfontein in game two this Saturday …
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing