22 Nov 2015

Stormers scrambling after Jones' exit

6:02 am on 22 November 2015

Eddie Jones' decision to quit the Stormers just weeks into the job to become England coach has left the Super Rugby side in the lurch with the new season fast approaching, but the South Africans say some "big-name coaches" are keen to replace him.

Japan rugby coach Eddie Jones

Former Japan and Wallabies and new England coach Eddie Jones Photo: Photosport

The Australian has signed a four-year contract starting in December, which will take him through to the end of the 2019 World Cup, and he becomes the foreign coach to lead England.

The 55-year-old former Wallabies and Japan coach replaces Stuart Lancaster, who stepped down in the wake of the hosts' pool-stage exit from the World Cup.

South Africa's Western Province had earlier paved the way for the announcement by releasing Jones from a three-year contract he had just signed to take over as coach of the Cape Town-based Stormers.

Last week, Jones had promised to "light up Newlands" by bringing a refreshing brand of attacking rugby to the Stormers but his abrupt departure leaves the team in the dark about who will lead them next season.

Confirmation of his exit was met with more disappointment than surprise and Western Province director of rugby Gert Smal said the task of replacing Jones was already underway.

"I have already had contact from some big-name coaches and I will, once again, look both internally and externally before continuing to plot the way ahead for Western Province Rugby and the Stormers.

"For now, I will oversee the team's off-season preparations. The assistant coaches, management team and playing body remain unaffected and all planning is in place."

Jones's stock rose to unprecedented levels after he led Japan to a stunning pool stage upset of former world champions South Africa at the recent Rugby World Cup.

He had previously coached Australia to the final of the 2003 tournament and been an advisor to the South Africa team that won the 2007 edition of rugby's showpiece event.

Western Province Rugby president Thelo Wakefield said Jones had approached the union this week with an offer from the RFU that was too good for him to pass up.

"Eddie came to us on Wednesday (Thursday NZ time) with an offer from the RFU, which was simply impossible for any coach to turn down," Wakefield revealed.

"It's a big pity to lose Eddie before he has even had an opportunity to make his mark here but you cannot keep someone against his will, whilst also competing with the richest rugby union at the same time."

The loss of Jones was met with resignation and disappointment rather than outrage by most Stormers fans, who had braced themselves for the announcement for days.

There was the realisation, too, that the humdrum of Super Rugby is no match for the top international post offered to the Australian.

New Zealander John Mitchell, a former All Blacks coach who lives in South Africa and has worked with the Lions Super Rugby side, is thought to be a leading contender for the job.

He told South Africa's Eyewitness News that he had actually been offered the position before the arrival of Jones.

"I did show some interest and was offered the job earlier in the year. Unfortunately, negotiations did not turn my head," he said.

The Stormers start their Super Rugby campaign at home to the Pretoria-based Bulls on February 27th.