Reptile show helps England take minds off South Africa defeat
Eddie Jones’ team lost a remarkable opening Test in Johannesburg.
England spent a night with snakes and spiders to help take their minds off Saturday’s harrowing collapse to South Africa at Ellis Park.
A variety of reptiles and creepy crawlies were brought into the team hotel at their Umhlanga base on Sunday night as part of a BBQ organised by players to forget the trauma of their 42-39 defeat by the Springboks.
England raced into a sensational 21-point lead inside the opening quarter only to fall apart as South Africa launched their fightback in a captivating first Test.
Defence coach Paul Gustard said: “We had a reptile show and a barbecue so that the boys were able to not think about rugby for a period of time.
“We had mambas, we had cobras, we had long green ones, long black-and-white ones… a snake’s a snake to me! We don’t get many in Newcastle! We had tarantulas, we had dragon things, we had all sorts!
“Dan Robson doesn’t like a spider. Nathan Hughes was probably the most confident with a snake. Nick Isiekwe and Dan Robson were terrible.
“It was a chance for the players to enjoy ourselves – have a barbecue, have some good food and have a laugh.
“We didn’t have the start to the series we wanted but we are still in it. We can still win the series 2-1 and everyone is a firm believer in that.”
Behind the scenes on game day 👀— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) June 10, 2018
📍 Johannesburg 🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/EMayOHXU8c
Gustard defended England’s approach to playing at altitude following a revelation from South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk that the Springboks sensed Eddie Jones’ men would be vulnerable at Ellis Park.
Jones has located his camp by the Indian Ocean despite the first two Tests being staged on the Highveld in Johannesburg – which is over a mile above sea level – and Bloemfontein where the air is thinner.
“There are plenty of different people willing to give their advice and I’m sure you’re aware of the thoroughness that we look into things to find out what’s ideal for the team to perform,” Gustard said.
“We’ve got our own sports scientists. We’ve got a guy that mentors the coaches that heads up British Athletics. We took all that advice in.
“We spoke to a lot of Super Rugby teams about what to do. And we are very happy with our decision to stay in Durban and go up.
“The result on Saturday is not a reflection of the altitude, it is a reflection of our performance.
“We are playing against some seriously big men, some athletic guys and we created opportunity for them through ill discipline, poor defence or poor control in attack.”
England have conceded 21 tries during the five-match losing run that has plunged them to fourth in the world rankings, but Gustard insists his only aim is to improve the defence and not on the role of Harlequins head coach that he fills upon his return from South Africa.
“I was fully focused on winning this series 3-0. That hasn’t happened but we can win 2-1,” Gustard said.
“My attention and my energy is in that and I will give everything I have got to do the best I can.”