Elton Jantjies’ critics can sometimes be a little harsh, but it doesn’t do his reputation any favours when he makes the news for all the wrong reasons, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
Elton Jantjies isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, especially for those – dare I say it – keyboard warriors on social media who spew venom from the behind the safe and secluded spaces of their computers every time word transformation is mentioned.
Jantjies isn’t your typical preppy-type rugby player. His haircut isn’t quite ‘Model C’ standard, while his arms are full of tattoos. He enjoys the finer things in life, such as driving fast, flashy cars and sporting designer wristwatches.
He walks around with a type of swagger and a bit of arrogance in his stride. He’s a ‘baller’ as the millennials would say, on and off the field.
That’s also how he plays his rugby. It’s fast. It’s flashy. It’s instinctive. Jantjies is a true maverick, but also one of the great enigmas of South African rugby.
Jantjies is probably one of the more frustrating talents who have graced a rugby field in this beautifully diverse country. At his best, he one of the great attacking flyhalves with vision and skill, an eye for a pass and an educated left boot.
You don’t score over 1 000 Super Rugby points and lead your team to three consecutive finals from the flyhalf position if there isn’t something special about you. For that, Jantjies deserves a lot more respect than what comes his way.
But he can also go from hero to villain in the space of a week – maybe even a half of rugby – with inexplicable brain explosions. Jantjies’ game is of course high risk and many times his decisions do backfire, which more often than not leads to disaster.
He also hasn’t produced the type of performances at international level that we see week-in and week-out for the Lions, although the game-plans he has had to follow have not always suited his preferred style of play.
But those are mavericks for you. The Paul Gascoignes’, the Herschelle Gibbs’ and the Emmanuel ‘Scara’ Ngobeses’ of this world. You never know what they will dish up, but sport would be a dull without them.
Unfortunately, though, even the greatest of entertainers must adhere to their team’s code. Nobody is above the game, least not the Lions No 10. And, a few months before his 29th birthday on 1 August, he should know that by now.
According to reports, Jantjies left the team’s beachfront hotel for an unauthorised night out following the Lions’ 27-17 defeat to the Sharks at Kings Park on May 25.
Apparently the flyhalf only came back to the hotel between 04:00 and 04:30 on Sunday morning, and upon his return he bumped into Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli in the foyer (I doubt Straeuli was going out for jog at that time of the morning as well, but he apparently had a dip).
Jantjies was dropped and then benched for their games against the Stormers and Hurricanes respectively, with the Lions only citing a breach of team protocol as the main reason for his omission from the team. They have also reportedly retracted their new contract offer to Jantjies.
These incidents have given Jantjies’ detractors even more ammunition to shoot him down. But this time it may be his own fault. The bullets are real. It has nothing to do with his hair cut, tattoos or his enigmatic performances.
Jantjies still has many more years left in the game, but it’s also important for him to get it together, especially off the field. Too many special talents don’t realise their destiny, and Jantjies must avoid becoming another one of those cases.
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