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Wallabies’ Jones says mentality key to toppling Boks

Upbeat Wallabies coach Eddie Jones on Friday said he intends to kick off his reign by creating history against world champions South Africa in Pretoria in a week’s time, with a winning mentality key to his new-look Australia.

The former England coach took over when Dave Rennie was axed in January and has been putting the players through their paces since, whittling them down to a squad he hopes can cause damage at the September-October World Cup in France.

A key task has been instilling the will to win, which will be put to the test for the first time in the Rugby Championship at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on July 8 — a venue where Australia has never tasted victory over seven games stretching back to 1963.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” he said on whether he was aware of the Pretoria drought. “We’ve spoken about it since April, it’s an opportunity to create history here and we want to be the first team that does it.

“First you have to think you can win. The most important thing is that’s the mindset you’ve got to be in,” added Jones, who is in his second stint as Wallabies coach.

“You’ve got to be thinking that and we’re 100 percent committed to winning and then you’ve got to execute a game plan where you win enough possession that you can push them to the other end of the field and keep them under pressure.”

Asked if that would involve a kicking strategy, Jones replied: “Any way you can mate, just get up the other end of the field, whether you run and pass or kick, it doesn’t matter, as long as you get up there.”

Jones selected a 34-man squad for the Rugby Championship, which will also see Australia face Argentina before two Bledisloe Cup fixtures with the All Blacks ahead of the World Cup.

He left four players at home as they departed Friday — Andrew Kellaway, Jordan Petaia, Matt Philip and Langi Gleeson, who are continuing to recover from injuries.

While Jones exuded confidence, he also stressed it was “a new team, new coaching staff, new players, new captains”, with Michael Hooper and James Slipper sharing the armband, and the ultimate goal was winning the World Cup.

“We don’t need to get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “There’s a sprint, we want to get out of the gates quickly, but sometimes the sprint doesn’t win the marathon.

“We’re not focused on South Africa, we’re focused on ourselves. This is a game about us, we want to put a new standard of Wallaby rugby forward and set the tone for our campaign.”

Veteran scrum-half Nic White revealed Jones had also addressed discipline as a priority, bringing referees to each training session, while proving to be a tough taskmaster.

“He doesn’t let anyone, on the field or off the field, just float by, he’s on you,” White said.

“If you’re cruising through a moment, he’ll pick it up pretty quickly.

“Everything is about a winning mindset, and it’s infectious. We’re in a good place at the moment.”