Rugby Union

England play South Africa on Saturday.

England preparing a Muhammad Ali inspired 'rope-a-dope' strategy against South Africa

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England have not beaten South Africa for 10 years, but new boss Eddie Jones believes that he might have found a way to outsmart their opponents.

The Springboks' raw physicality makes it difficult to play them using the same physical tactic.

Jones, however, has said that the Red Rose must adopt boxing legend Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope strategy if they are to end the 10-year drought against their rivals. 

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During this period, South Africa have won 11 and drawn one out of their last 12 matches against the British side.

England, who have made six changes to the side that beat Australia earlier, will go into the weekend looking to end the miserable 10-year run against South Africa.

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After analysing those games, Jones has attributed the poor record to the use of brawn instead of brain against a highly physical side. 

The coach said: "South Africa play the game like it's a physical game of chess - like chess with steroids!

"They're a very structured side. They know exactly where they want to go and they do it with force. 

"Every England team prepared to be physical against them, but surely that's a given. Rugby is always physical. It's like saying that (brown) table is brown. If you're not physical in rugby you should be playing volleyball or curling. But against a physically aggressive side, you've also got to play smart."  

England Training Session

Here, Jones points out the need to play smarter in order to overcome a physically superior opponent. 

He adds: "We don't want to go toe to toe with South Africa because that's what they want us to do. You've got to make them play from an unstructured situation."

Jones cited Ali's 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" encounter against the physically imposing George Foreman as an example of a smaller opponent outsmarting a bigger one. 

"Look, we're not shying away from the physical side of the game. But when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman, if he went toe to toe with him he was going to lose, he had to find other ways of getting around him."

England Training Session

During the 1974 clash, Ali leant on the ropes and covered up, allowing Foreman to go at him with punches on the arms and body until his strength was wasted, after which Ali eased to victory. 

Jones said that everyone will find out rugby's version of the rope-a-dope on Saturday. 

Having worked with South Africa during their 2007 World Cup winning campaign, beating England in the final, Jones certainly has insights into the African nation's game and style.

The 56-year-old concluded by saying: "There are ways to get to South Africa. Because of the overtness in their physicality, they give you opportunities and I think we will be smart enough to take them"

England Training Session

"If you're not 6ft 6 in, you get thrown out the door. That's how they do their selections - they just pick the biggest blokes.

"I remember [former South Africa boss] Jake White coming to a coaching conference in Japan and saying, 'I don't even pick a prop unless he's 6ft tall, because unless he's 6ft tall he can't lift the locks high enough in the line-out.'

"A Japanese coach put his hand up and said, 'What do you do if you haven't got a lock who is 6ft tall?' Jake just said to them, 'Pray, Mate!"

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Topics:
Jonny Wilkinson
England Rugby
South Africa Rugby
Australia Rugby
New Zeland Rugby
Rugby Union
Dan Carter

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