Don’t dismiss Elton’s impact

It is no surprise to see Elton Jantjies effectively rated as one of South Africa’s best attacking Vodacom Super Rugby players from the past decade, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

I’ve always found it interesting to reflect on the comments and reaction from the South African rugby ‘fan’ base when it comes to certain players. For one reason or another, Jantjies often seems to stir the most heated debates on our social platforms.

It’s difficult to understand why the Lions captain is such a polarising figure, with some rugby hacks even going so far as to suggest his various hairstyles and/or passion for flashy cars could be an influencing factor.

As strange as that may sound, it’s actually even stranger how so many are ready to dismiss what he has achieved on the field.

And so it was no surprise that social media went a bit berserk on Tuesday when Sanzaar identified Jantjies as South Africa’s Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Decade based on statistical facts and figures.

As Sanzaar’s Opta-based stats article mentioned: Jantjies has scored the second-most points (1,145) of any player in the last 10 years, also made the third-most try assists (59) of any player while gaining the most metres (2,902) and making the most clean breaks (50) of any South African No 10s.

You can’t argue with those figures, but all statistics have to be taken in context.

There was no mention of Jantjies’ defensive stats or his kicking figures, but then you can also ask how a backline player’s achievements can possibly be compared to the immensely varied role of a forward?

The fact of the matter is that even statistical information is still incredibly subjective.

Read into it what you will, but also don’t detract from what Jantjies has achieved as an attacking tour de force. Quite simply, this has always been his primary strength: his ability to read and vary play, as well as to put players away into space with deft passes or kicks.

Not that long ago, I remember chatting to then Lions coach and Springbok assistant Swys de Bruin about Jantjies, and why he felt there was sometimes a negative outlook about the flyhalf no matter what he seemed to do.

De Bruin quite simply laughed it off. He pointed to that Super Rugby season and how he had virtually opted to hardly ever replace Jantjies, who completed almost every minute of action.

De Bruin emphasised that this was simply how important the pivot was to the Lions’ play, and how highly he regarded Jantjies.

Yes, while some ‘supporters’ may be disappointed that the Lions stalwart has not yet completely kicked on at Test level, his mentorship and backup role at last year’s World Cup should not be underestimated. Many credited him for the work he did during training to enable the Boks to prepare against a ‘shadow’ opposition flyhalf.

In my previous conversations with Jantjies himself, I’ve found him to be a person and player of immense conviction, and one of the most supreme rugby professionals who is constantly looking to fine-tune his craft.

Watch: Elton trains in the wet

So, take Opta’s stats with a pinch of salt, but don’t for a second dismiss the impact Jantjies has made at the Lions and in Super Rugby for the better part of the last decade.

And as an attacking player – which is what most of the stats are based on – he is indeed one of the best South Africa has produced.

Post by

Craig Lewis