The former Irish international flew directly to Japan from the northern hemisphere to join his new ‘family’ for the next seven weeks at least, nine weeks if all goes to plan.
“I was a little bit nervous with Aled (Walters) telling me in on certain guys and maybe having a few jokes with me, but in fairness they have been very good, very welcoming. It has been great,” said Jones.
Jones has been drafted in as a defence analyst following the sudden withdrawal of De Bruin on medical grounds.
Jones, 32, won 13 caps for Ireland at fullback or wing during a 10-year playing career with Leinster and Munster. He was part of Ireland’s 2015 Six Nations title-winning squad and also represented his country at the Sevens Rugby World Cup in 2009. He missed out on Rugby World Cup selection because of injury in 2011 – one week before the tournament – and was overlooked in 2015.
“It’s mad to think that that was only four years ago and to be here now,” he said. “I just intend to give energy and help out where I can.”
Jones retired in 2015 because of a neck injury and moved almost immediately into coaching with Munster. He met Rassie Erasmus (and Jacques Nienaber) when the latter was appointed Munster coach at the end of June 2016.
“Even after Rassie and Jacques left Munster [at the end of 2017] we kept in contact from time to time," said Jones.
“The job came about through a number of circumstances and I’m delighted to be part of it.
“I’d been at Munster for the last three years when I decided it was time for a change and Rassie gave me a shout to say would I be interested in coming out for a bit to help out around the place.”
At Munster, Jones coached the backs and attack but his role is modified with the Boks: “Here, Rassie has me doing a lot more analysis and giving a hand out on the pitch where I can,” he said.
“But things are very settled here as it is and the guys know what they’re about and obviously have a lot of experience so it’s more just to give a hand where needed.
“The quality of the players is clear to see; there’s obviously a lot of experience and someone like Frans Steyn already has a World Cup winner’s medal.
“But then there’s the young guys like Herschel Jantjies who has burst onto the scene and he’s providing a huge amount of energy and competition to guys like Faf (de Klerk) and Cobus (Reinach) so there’s massive experience but a lot of youth and energy in the squad.”
Jones, who has a degree in geography and the Classics and wrote his final thesis on Greek columns (“that’s boring, let’s not talk about that”) is well placed to measure hemispherical rugby.
“I suppose there’s a difference in the cultural environment, but at the same time there are certain commonalities that you see across all rugby environments because the values of the game demand such in terms of respect and effort and work ethic,” he said.
“In my experience sometimes teams in the north will look at teams in the south and say ‘look at what they’re doing, isn’t that amazing!
“And then it’s surprising to see that coming here, and to see that teams in the south are saying ‘look at that things in the north are good’. I think it’s becoming a very level playing field.”
Jones will have his first of Springbok rugby on the side of the Boks on Friday night in Kumagaya when Erasmus’s team take on Japan. His only other experience was as a fullback replacement for Rob Kearney in Ireland’s 29-15 win at Lansdowne Road in 2014. Seven of the Springboks he faced that day are in the current squad.