Proudfoot tips ‘very, very dangerous’ Wallabies citing ‘Eddie effect’
It is simple for Matt Proudfoot, the man with an attachment to just about every side at the Rugby World Cup. There is only one coach he believes will pull off a real surprise in the next seven weeks.
“Eddie (Jones) makes a change no matter where he goes,” said the South African who spent two years working under the notoriously demanding Australian as they attempted to turn around England’s flailing fortunes.
That change is yet to be seen on the scoreboard since Jones returned to his native Australia. Five matches, five losses, 179 points shipped, just 87 scored.
But Proudfoot, now in the unfamiliar role of Namibia assistant coach, dismisses those figures. He insists the signs of the ‘Eddie effect’ should be enough to get Wallabies fans smiling once more.
“They ran into the All Blacks running hot, South Africa running hot, Argentina running really, really well, in the Rugby Championship. They’ll get their first couple of wins (versus Georgia on Saturday and Fiji on 17 September) and when that team is confident that will make a big change,” the South African born coach said.
“Just look at the group of athletes they have, unbelievable athletes. Australia are going to be dangerous, very, very dangerous.”
Proudfoot on Jones is worth listening to. He is one of the few assistant coaches to have survived long under the combative Aussie.
“I loved it, I loved every part. Eddie is a really intelligent man, a tough coach, (but) he gets growth out of you, he gets growth out of the environment.”
Just six weeks ago Proudfoot, assistant coach to South Africa’s 2019 World Cup winning scrum, ‘Bomb Squad’ and all, was expecting to watch Jones work his magic from the comfort of his Cape Town sofa. After more than six years coaching at the very top of international rugby, he had intended to fulfil a promise to his daughter and spend a ‘year off’ as she finished high school.
But rugby – or more specifically another former boss – had other ideas.
“I’ve got so much respect for Allister (Coetzee, the former South Africa head coach and Proudfoot’s boss at the Stormers) and it’s always been when asked I would jump at it, no matter what,” the 51-year-old said, explaining how he couldn’t turn down the now Namibia head coach’s plea.
Joining the Welwitschias, a team yet to register a win in a record 22 World Cup matches, might seem like an odd drop down the ladder for a man used to the very biggest stage. But there were multiple motivations at play.
“As a coach to improve yourself you have to expose yourself. You have to be prepared to learn and where better opportunity to learn than where you’ve got to try something new, try something different? At the top end it’s all very small margins, at this end you can experiment, you can grow,” Proudfoot explained.
“So, personally, selfishly, it was a real opportunity to test myself and then loyalty to Allister.”
Securing the services of one of world rugby’s most in-demand and respected scrum coaches was a major coup for Namibia. It took just a week at the beginning of August for Proudfoot to know he had made the right decision.
“It’s special when players don’t moan, they just go for it, all in. When they talk about ‘Land of the Brave’ they really are – that just hooked me,” Proudfoot revealed.
Ending a World Cup record winless streak – Namibia have played 22 lost 22 matches in their seven World Cups to date – is the first priority. But just as important to Proudfoot is the feeling he is playing his part in developing the sport that has given him so much.
“This is not about winning it, it’s about respecting the game. This is where the game comes together every four years and what are you prepared to add to it? What are you prepared to give to the game? Because this is where the game grows,” he explained.
Once that is done it will be back to that sofa in Cape Town, and a chance to watch his old boss add to myth once more. Not that his long-suffering daughter can expect her dad to stay still for too long.
“It’s time for me to be a head coach,” Proudfoot said. “I’m having a look at one or two teams where I could get a foothold and put together the lessons I’ve learned from all the top head coaches I have worked with.
“She (his daughter) knows this is what Dad is and who he is.”
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