Allister Coetzee says that Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies is finally starting to take responsibility as a game manager and leader, reports JON CARDINELLI in Durban.
Jantjies played one of his best Tests for the Boks in the 37-14 win against France this past Saturday. The flyhalf was flawless in front of goal and took good options in general play.
It would be premature to state that Jantjies has established himself as the Boks' first-choice No 10, though. Indeed, the Lions pivot is the only experienced specialist flyhalf in the current squad. Frans Steyn has been listed as the official cover at flyhalf for the three-Test series against France.
The Boks are currently without Pat Lambie, who started South Africa's first Test in 2016 before succumbing to injury, as well as Handré Pollard, who started at flyhalf for the Boks at the 2015 World Cup. It's fair to say that Jantjies has been fortunate to receive this extended opportunity against France.
Coetzee, however, feels that the 26-year-old has learned from the mistakes he made across a forgettable 2016 season and has started to embraced the responsibility that comes with the position.
'He's part of the leadership group in our side,' the Bok coach said. 'He's improved in terms of managing the game.
'Elton has been playing consistently well this season for the Lions. There is a different kind of pressure in Test rugby, though, it's very different to that of Super Rugby. What's been obvious to me is how Elton is now enjoying the pressure of international rugby.'
Coetzee is unlikely to make any unforced changes to his backline this week. Jesse Kriel has been ruled out with a concussion, and Lionel Mapoe is set to fill the gap at No 13.
Coetzee is reluctant to move Jan Serfontein from No 12 to No 13 and bring Frans Steyn in at inside centre. The Bok coach feels that Jantjies and Serfontein have a good understanding as a 10-12 combination, and deserve another opportunity to shine.
Coetzee feels that Jantjies's option-taking has improved because the communication between the backs has improved.
'Elton's got a great understanding of how we want to play, how we want to manage that balance between kicking and running, and also in terms of spotting space,' said Coetzee.
'Obviously he can't do all of that himself. There are others in the backs who have to assist him in that respect. That makes it easier for Elton to choose the right option.'
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images