Cape Town – Eddie Jones is set to eject from the Stormers and parachute into England.
John Mitchell is the front-runner to replace him at Newlands headquarters.
It is believed that Jones will, in the next 24 hours, be unveiled as England’s new head coach.
The 55-year-old Australian, who guided Japan to historic success at the recent World Cup in England, was recently installed as Allister Coetzee’s successor at the Stormers.
However, England’s Rugby Football Union bosses have reportedly been in talks with Jones – first prize among short-listed candidates including Jake White – since coach Stuart Lancaster stepped down in the aftermath of a disappointing World Cup campaign.
Though it will come at a cost estimated at R15m, the RFU is poised to exercise the exit clause in Jones’ contract with the Stormers.
With the start of the 2016 Super Rugby season little more than three months away, this will leave a sour taste in the mouths of Cape rugby supporters who just last week celebrated the arrival of a coach with an attacking-rugby reputation.
It will also be a bitter pill for Gert Smal to swallow after the Western Province director of rugby appeared to have achieved a coup by signing Jones – his colleague on the Springbok management team that won the World Cup in 2007 – prior to Japan’s surprise wins against the South Africa in September.
Smal could not be reached for comment, but sources have confirmed that the Stormers are in contact with Mitchell to discuss his availability for the position.
“An approach was made to me and there were negotiations, but unfortunately Gert Smal is only contracted as Western Province director of rugby for another two years, so there were no guarantees for me beyond that period,” Mitchell was quoted as saying in June.
“Had I been offered a four-year deal, it would have been different.”
Jones’ move north will have shifted the landscape significantly and Smal is now believed to be in a position to offer the former All Blacks coach a longer-term contract, though hiring him may not be quite the formality that it would have been five months ago.
Earlier this week, Mitchell declared his interest in the England job, it is understood that he has also been approached by a French Top 14 club, and the Springbok job appears to be in a state of flux.
Mitchell has not coached professionally since 2012, his last season with the Lions who he guided to the Currie Cup title in 2011. He was the inaugural coach of the Western Force, spending six seasons in Perth between 2005 and 2010.
Prior to that, Mitchell was responsible for calling up Richie McCaw when he coached New Zealand between 2001 and 2003, ending a six-year Bledisloe Cup drought in his final season at the helm.