Jantjies on track for first Test

Allister Coetzee is confident that Elton Jantjies will be fit and ready to start for the Springboks against Ireland on 11 June. JON CARDINELLI reports.

On Saturday, Coetzee sprung a few surprises when he unveiled his 31-man Test squad. One of the most significant revelations, however, was made after the squad announcement. The new Bok coach confirmed that Jantjies is making progress with a finger injury and should be ready to face Ireland in two weeks’ time.

Earlier this week, the Lions flyhalf underwent surgery to repair a damaged finger. While the operation was a success, there was some doubt regarding Jantjies’s availability for the upcoming Tests against Ireland.

On Saturday, Coetzee said that the form flyhalf in South African rugby may be wearing the Bok No 10 jersey at Newlands on 11 June.

‘According to my medical team, Elton will be in contention for the first Test,’ Coetzee said.

Coetzee has picked three flyhalves in his group of 31. Jantjies is the form player, but has only played two Tests for South Africa. Pat Lambie boasts more experience as a veteran of 50 Tests and two World Cup tournaments. The selection of Garth April, the 24-year-old rookie from the Sharks, has raised a few eyebrows.

‘Handré Pollard, Kurt Coleman and Robert du Preez are all injured at the moment. They would have featured in one of the [Bok or SA A] squads this June. That said, April has certainly taken his opportunity. He showed his composure when the Sharks toured France in the pre-season, and in the Super Rugby tournament. He has a good kicking game and is not afraid to take on the line. I have confidence in his ability,’ said Coetzee.

‘One shouldn’t be afraid to expose young flyhalves. We saw that when New Zealand brought [Highlanders star] Lima Sopoaga to Ellis Park last year. In the same way, I know this boy [April] has got it.

‘I was never going to select an overseas-based player as my third flyhalf option,’ Coetzee added, in reference to the likes of Johan Goosen (Racing 92) and Morné Steyn (Stade Français) who are performing for their respective clubs overseas. He then explained the need to manage April carefully in the coming series.

‘I want to bring him through slowly, I don’t want to break him,’ the Bok coach said. ‘If Elton doesn’t pass fit, and Lambie breaks down in the lead-up to the first Test against Ireland, then it may be a big ask for Garth to start. In those circumstances, I may need to look at bringing in a more experienced option from outside the Bok and SA A squads.’

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Jon Cardinelli