‘Elton must run the ship’

Allister Coetzee has called for Elton Jantjies to implement accurate game management during Saturday’s second Test against Ireland at Ellis Park. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Johannesburg.

Immediately after the Boks’ shock loss at Newlands last weekend, Coetzee said he wouldn’t be panicked into making hasty changes. He insisted his underperforming charges deserved the opportunity to redeem themselves.

On Thursday, he backed that up by making just two injury-enforced changes to the starting lineup, with Elton Jantjies replacing the injured Pat Lambie at flyhalf, while Pieter-Steph du Toit has come in for Lood de Jager (grade-one calf strain).

Jantjies has become renowned for his X factor, running game and natural attacking instincts that have been a hallmark of the Lions’ game in Super Rugby, but there will be a need for him to adopt a more balanced approach in the high-pressure environment of Test rugby. On Saturday, he will make his first start for the Springboks.

This week, Coetzee has reiterated the need for the Boks to show greater appreciation for a territorial and tactical approach at Ellis Park, and at Thursday’s team announcement he highlighted the importance of Jantjies’s role in this regard.

‘There is a huge expectation on Elton to fire, but that’s the least I’m expecting. I just want him to take control of the game and manage it well. It’s not about hitting sixes, I want him get us to play in right areas on the field, to beat the rush [defence]. It’s important for us to play intelligent rugby, identify where the space is and then put the ball there when the time is right.’

Coetzee has also emphasised that the Boks can’t afford to become preoccupied with the prospect of playing crowd-pleasing rugby if it comes at the expense of executing the fundamentals of Test rugby accurately.

‘People expect running rugby, and I agree that if it’s on, it’s on, and we must have a go. But we also can’t just try and force things unnecessarily, and attack at all costs. It’s important for Elton to know that he can run if it’s on, but he also has to make good decisions and manage the game well … I’ve been impressed with the attitude of Elton, there’s a real calmness about him, and he goes about his business well. That gives confidence to the pack.’

Faf de Klerk is set to start his second Test at scrumhalf, and although his kicking game was at times found wanting at Newlands last Saturday, he was one of the more impressive performers on a bleak day for the Boks.

Coetzee said the combination of De Klerk and Jantjies would be key to the Springboks’ cause this Saturday.

‘I though Faf played really well last weekend. Defensively he was good and he did all the basics well. That’s all he has to do again. You can’t have both Faf and Elton trying to get things going all the time. One must stick to basics, while allowing Elton to run the ship and ensure we play tactically. But Faf also needs to relieve pressure when required.’

Recalled Morné Steyn will provide flyhalf cover off the bench, and Coetzee explained the thought process behind his inclusion in the match 23 ahead of Garth April.

‘I brought in Garth to develop as a player and to get closer to the Bok squad. I didn’t want to bring in an overseas-based player if he was only going to be the No 3 in his position. But if I wake up tomorrow and Elton is not well [and can’t take up his place in the team], at least Morné has been there and done it before. That will give everyone confidence. When it comes to youngsters, there is a way to go about their development and introduce them into action. If you do that too soon, you can also destroy a youngster, and that’s the way I view it.’

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

Post by

Craig Lewis