Jantjies: It’s important I stay level-headed

In the latest SA Rugby magazine, Stormers and Springbok scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies opens up about the fanfare that has followed his meteoric rise in 2019.

In a wide-ranging interview with DYLAN JACK, Jantjies reflects on his rise from playing for the University of the Western Cape in 2017 to making his Springbok debut in 2019, the Springboks’ World Cup-winning campaign and dealing with the fame which has followed him since.

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Jantjies knows the importance of remaining ‘level-headed’ after a breakthrough in 2019 had him end the year as a Rugby Championship and World Cup winner. In that context, it’s unbelievable the dynamic scrumhalf was not even part of the Springbok conversation in 2018.

Back then, he was thought of as more of a future star as Ivan van Zyl, Embrose Papier and Cobus Reinach looked to be battling it out to deputise for Faf de Klerk. In fact, while those four starred for their clubs in Super Rugby and the English Premiership in 2017, Jantjies was playing for the University of the Western Cape and helping them win the Varsity Shield.

However, in a 2019 to remember Jantjies established himself as an integral member of the Stormers’ Super Rugby squad, before going on to play a crucial role in the Springboks’ Rugby Championship and World Cup-winning teams. To boot, he was nominated for World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year award.

‘I never saw it coming,’ Jantjies tells SA Rugby magazine. ‘I was just enjoying the opportunity to play Super Rugby and be in a starting position. It was what I worked for and eventually I got the dividends of the hard work.

‘The more I played, the more I started games, the more I grew in confidence. Eventually, I got the call-up to join the alignment camps. From there on, things got exciting. I made my debut, got selected for the World Cup, and having the medal is an amazing feeling and a dream come true.’

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Like most challenges in his career, Jantjies has taken his new-found fame in his stride.

‘In the beginning, with all the attention and people recognising you, it was overwhelming. I tried to not let it get to me, because I knew I still had to come back and perform in Super Rugby. For me, it was about focusing on getting back to full fitness and returning to the Stormers to play my best rugby.

‘It has been really humbling. Coming from playing at UWC, staying at the koshuis [residence] and then all of a sudden, winning the World Cup, your life changes because a lot of people want a piece of you. What is important is that I stay level-headed and keep my feet on the ground. I think with the people I surround myself with – my family and friends in Kylemore – it comes automatically. In a way, it has changed my life, but it hasn’t changed who I am.’

Having recently signed a new two-year deal with the Stormers, Jantjies wants to impart some of his knowledge with his younger teammates, but is also aware that he still has room for improvement.

‘With younger guys being there I always try at every single training to learn as much as I can but also try implementing what I have learned from the Springboks at the Stormers. It’s not about me being at the Stormers and now I am the boss or wanting to be seen as bigger than what I am.

‘I just want to try and help some of the younger guys that are in the squad, if they are struggling with something and I can help. There is a lot that I still need to learn and I can learn from a younger guy. I want to give it my all, stay fit and play quality rugby.’

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Dylan Jack