Rassie Erasmus has confirmed Elton Jantjies would be the current ‘first-choice’ replacement for injured Handre Pollard. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
In mid-September, it was confirmed that Pollard is set to face an extended period on the sidelines after rupturing his knee ligaments while playing for Montpellier.
There remain a number of obstacles to overcome if the Springboks are to participate in the rescheduled Rugby Championship later this year, but should the defending champions take part, Pollard would not be available.
And with Pollard set to have very limited game time under the belt before the 2021 British & Irish Lions series, the Bok coaches will be keen to see how the other local flyhalves perform in the upcoming Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup competitions.
With 37 Test caps to his name, Jantjies is the next most experienced flyhalf available to the Springboks. The 30-year-old Lions captain served as Pollard’s deputy during the 2019 World Cup, and played an integral role in helping his teammates plan for the specific threats posed by the opposition.
This was something that Erasmus also highlighted when discussing the values added by Jantjies.
‘In terms of a team man and someone who served the side, Elton really stood out at the World Cup in the way he helped us prepare. And when he’s playing with structure and a good forward foundation, he’s unbelievable. He was pushing hard for Handre’s spot [in the past].
‘So Elton is there, and then there’s Damian Wilemse who has gone to a World Cup and who can do a job at 10 and 15. Even Frans Steyn, he can slot in if needed. Then Curwin Bosch, if he gets a good run, is someone to watch.’
Erasmus added that this was the reason he was looking forward to the start of the new seven-week local competition, which would provide plenty of opportunities for players to make an impression.
‘It’s exciting that there are youngsters coming through as well. Elton would be my immediate first choice based on potential and ability [right now], but others will be pushing.’
This Saturday, Jantjies and Willemse will start at flyhalf for opposing teams in the Springbok Showdown at Newlands, while Bosch and Manie Libbok are on the bench.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber said they look forward to seeing what they could offer.
‘Due to restrictions, there won’t be a lot of training [in the lead-up to the game], but it will be nice to see them taking control and getting the attack going forward on the front foot. We’d like to see the guys at 10 providing nice calm guidance to the forwards, and hopefully there will be good continuity in the game, with solid set pieces.’