Elton Jantjies is excited by the opportunity to help facilitate the progression of the next generation of players at the Lions, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In an upcoming article for SA Rugby magazine, Jantjies spoke about his reasoning behind turning down the opportunity to head overseas, instead deciding to remain committed to the Lions – where he hopes to leave a legacy.
In recent years, the Lions managed to reach three successive Vodacom Super Rugby finals, but a number of players have left the franchise over the last couple of seasons, and the Johannesburg-based side has had to undergo a considerable rebuilding phase.
The Lions were also hit hard by player departures during a 21-day exit window enforced by SA Rugby, which allowed players to exercise an exit from current contracts in favour of overseas offers during the lockdown period.
Yet, Jantjies was one of the players who turned down any consideration to head abroad, while over the last couple of months the Lions have announced a few new signings to bolster the squad.
The Springbok flyhalf is expected to remain in a frontline captaincy role at the Lions, and he explained how he viewed this leadership position.
‘I don’t have a timeline of when I’d consider going overseas. That’s not something that’s part of my plan right now. I just want to see growth in the younger generation of players, and how they can develop daily on the rugby field.
‘From my point of view, it’s important to realise that external stuff is not going to make you better as a rugby player. It’s about spending time watching rugby, learning from coaches and training hard. That is the only way you can become better as a rugby player. External factors will always be there, so it’s important to channel your energy in the right direction.
‘From a personal perspective, I just want to try and be the best I can be, and to remain the No 1 flyhalf at the Lions, as well as to be the best possible captain who leads by action and example in training and during matches.’
When Super Rugby was suspended in March, the Lions languished down in 13th place, but Jantjies adopted an optimistic outlook when looking to the future.
‘In team meetings, you could see we were learning from past mistakes and focusing on what we could work on to get better. To get better individually and as a team, it’s important for us all to take more responsibility so that when we come back we don’t make the same mistakes.
‘It’s an opportunity to refresh, and ensure we all get aligned whether it’s at training, or during video sessions. If we all speak the same language and see the same picture, then I’m confident we’ll put ourselves in the best position to get the same positive results.’
Jantjies added that he had used the time during lockdown to analyse various successful teams, and to try to pinpoint crucial trends.
‘I’ve looked closely as what’s been key to the achievements of leading teams, and have tried finding the things that work, and how we can implement that at the Lions collectively. We’re all young and capable of becoming better rugby players, and while we’ll never go away from the way we play and our DNA, we can implement certain things that will be beneficial.
‘We need to stick to our processes, put plans in place, and keep working hard to get to the right spot as a group.’
*The full Jantjies feature can be found in the latest SA Rugby magazine, on sale this weekend.