As the son of Britain’s youngest-ever ABA boxing champion, Jonathan Humphreys could be just the man to help the Scottish rugby team haul themselves off the canvas this weekend.
Reeling from a 28-0 defeat by South Africa, the Scots now go in against Australia in the final viagogo Autumn Test knowing they cannot afford the type of unforced errors which contributed to last weekend’s whitewash.
Scotland forwards coach Humphreys, whose dad Colin was a top welterweight boxer, acknowledges that the Scots must be more precise but at the same time refuses to throw in the towel so far as adventure is concerned.
“Australia will be a huge challenge but we don’t want to be a team that is not ambitious,” said Jonathan, capped by Wales at hooker from 1995 to 2003. He added: “There were plenty of opportunities where we could have stuck the ball into the corner last weekend. But we want to hang our hat on being a certain type of team.”
The two tries which killed off Scotland’s challenge against the ’Boks midway through the first half stemmed from a forced pass and an over-attacking alignment which left a gap for the visitors to exploit. Humphreys said: “When mistakes happen, we can deal with them as long as the intent is positive. If you don’t deal with them then you get punished. Heavily.
“But we can’t constrain ourselves. We want to be extremely physical in everything we do but, when the opportunity to play is there, we have to take it.”
The message is that Scotland’s team – metaphorically speaking – shouldn’t die wondering and they have licence to be positive without being reckless.
“Some of the boys will make mistakes,” added Humphreys, “but you have to learn from them and can’t stop trying things.”
It is Humphreys’ job to make the Scots more combative and ensure they are not outmuscled as they were against South Africa at rucks and, in that respect, a pugilistic approach is in the genes.
“My dad was keen for me to go down the boxing route like him instead of rugby,” revealed Humphreys. “I did box for a while and I love boxing as the purest of sports – it was my mum who stepped in and stopped me.
“My mum felt that when you go to boxing shows they are generally at not the best places. You are on quite late at night, some of them week nights. So, mum wouldn’t let me have it. Mind you, when she saw me end up in the front row of the scrum I think she changed her mind, but it was too late!”
Humphreys racked up 35 Welsh caps – he won two, lost two against Scotland – before entering coaching with the Ospreys where he encountered Scott Johnson, who lured him north to succeed Dean Ryan.
As for dad Colin, his sporting prowess peaked at the ABA title after being thwarted of possible global glory in cruel circumstances.
“Dad won an ABA title at 17 despite breaking his thumb in the semi-final a few hours before contesting the final which was on the same day. The Olympic team had been picked with ten Englishmen when they insisted dad box an eliminator against the opponent he’d already beaten in that semi.
“He turned professional instead, leaving the man he’d beaten to get a bronze at the 1960 Olympics.
“Later, he fell out with his manager and couldn’t box for a year until his contract ran out.
“Unfortunately for him, the manager was also on the Board of Control and his licence was refused because they said he’d bad eyesight.”
Humphreys snr still fostered his son’s love of sport and desire to be the best he can be. “The reason I am with Scotland is because I wanted to come to an international team who I believe has potential to be extremely competitive,” said Jonathan.
“When I was playing I always thought of Scotland being an extremely big side and that is still the case. There’s a lot of potential, too, with young lads coming through age groups.
“If we can get balance between being physical up front and attacking right we will be a very competitive team.
“Scott (Johnson) is very much focused on the process and has said very clearly you have to increase the depth or we won’t be competitive going forward.
“To do that, we have to take a few hits.”
Humphreys made it clear a third straight victory over Australia is the aim this Saturday, helped by an outing against the Springboks that at least served to get the team more up to speed early in their season against opponents with a recent Rugby Championship under their belt.
“When you go out and play these (southern hemisphere) teams they are extremely well prepared, almost like a club,” he said. “It is always going to take a while to get to grips with.
“The start of the game was really the undoing for us against South Africa and, after that, we were fairly comfortable in what we were trying to do and what we were trying to achieve.
“Hopefully, it will pay dividends on the weekend.”
As for the disciplinary proceedings which have resulted in five Wallabies being dropped for Saturday’s match following a night out in Dublin, Humphreys feels Scotland will not feel under any extra pressure.
There is an argument that says Scotland will be on a hiding to nothing with the Wallabies restricting their selection but, if the hosts get their act together, that won’t matter says the counter view.
“In terms of what has gone on in their camp, that is for Australia to sort out,” said Humphreys. “We are very much concentrating on ourselves and trying to get better in some of the areas of what we do while having a look at players who will hopefully be part of the Scottish set-up moving forward. We’re able to shove to one side what is happening with Australia and concentrate on ourselves.”