Alun Wyn Jones can lift Rugby World Cup, says 2007 South Africa coach Jake White

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales in Yokohama
Alun Wyn Jones
Alun Wyn Jones has led the British and Irish Lions and Ospreys as well as Wales
2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final: Wales v South Africa
Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama Date: Sun, 27 Oct Kick-off: 09:00 GMT
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

World Cup-winning coach Jake White says Alun Wyn Jones may be destined to lift the Rugby World Cup trophy and join the sport's legends.

Jones will lead Wales into the semi-final against South Africa on Sunday.

White guided South Africa to 2007 World Cup glory and says Jones can emulate past winning skippers Richie McCaw, Francois Pienaar and John Eales.

"Look at Alun Wyn Jones, I really believe he can do it, he is the real deal and a great captain," said White.

England lock legend Martin Johnson was another dominant figure when they won the 2003 title in Sydney.

White, now coaching Japan side Toyota Verblitz, said of Jones: "He is the most improved rugby player during the time they have played Test rugby that I've ever seen.

"I don't think people foresaw what he would do for Welsh rugby when he started.

"He has become one of the great Welsh players of all time with what he has achieved as a Lions and Wales captain.

"I'd say it is far beyond what even he could have dreamed of.

"He's the heartbeat of Wales and if he is there then Wales have got a chance."

Wales were disappointing in the 20-19 quarter-final win against a France side that had lock Sebastien Vahaamahina sent off.

White thinks that performance can galvanise Warren Gatland's team.

"There are a lot of positives you get out of that win over France," said White.

"I think South Africa would have preferred to play against France as they would not have had Vahaamahina.

"South Africa have got a much tougher semi-final now and I am sure Gats will be giving it to Wales this week, telling them they were close to going home and they had better get it right this weekend.

"The fact they were so pushed to beat France means they will get a massive amount of confidence from that.

"Looking at Dan Biggar's body language when they won, the way he reacted and got the crowd going, that's why I think Wales can do it."

Wales have won the past four matches against South Africa since the Springboks defeated Gatland's side in the 2015 quarter-final at Twickenham.

"They've had South Africa's number for a while," said White.

"Everyone will have done their homework on who they would have wanted to play in the run-up to the final, but Wales would have always known they'd get SA in the semi-final.

"What I'd fear as a SA coach is that Wales weren't great last weekend but they got over the line. That means a lot when you are looking for momentum.

"[Defence coach] Shaun Edwards won't be happy that they leaked a few tries against France.

"The fact they did leak a few tries will have South Africa chuffed as France still had opportunities against Wales even with 14 men. South Africa will think they can create chances."

The Springboks lost their opening pool game against New Zealand in Japan before four successive victories took them to the semi-final.

"South Africa have had it easy so far and they will know that," said White.

"They were always going to come second in their pool and then they got Japan.

"I know in 1995 we went up four or five notches as the home nation and it would have been the same for Japan.

"But if you'd have told South Africa 'you'll get Japan in the quarter-finals of a World Cup', they'd have taken it.

"The only time they have been tested, they lost against New Zealand so it's difficult to say what they have been like.

"They have been good enough to win the other games, but the real test comes now."

White believes a World Cup win would be an ideal end to Gatland's 12-year reign in charge of Wales.

"There is no doubt he will want to end with the ultimate," said Jones.

"He has won Grand Slams, Six Nations, taken Wales to number one in the world, but this would be the cherry on the cake for him."

However, White still believes New Zealand are favourites to win a third successive World Cup.

"I'd still say the All Blacks are favourites," said White.

"People would like to believe they are not. People try to find weaknesses in them, but if they are on song then they should be good enough."

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