Herschel Jantjies shone in the Springboks’ vibrant yet flawed 35-17 win over the Wallabies, writes JON CARDINELLI at Ellis Park.
Talk about living up to the hype.
Earlier this week, Bok backline coach Mzwandile Stick talked up Jantjies as the next great Bok scrumhalf. At the captain’s media conference, stand-in skipper Eben Etzebeth smiled as he reflected on the 23-year-old’s energy on and off the field.
On Saturday at Ellis Park, Jantjies lived up to the expectations and then some.
The crowd of 51,000 rose as one as the scrumhalf tracked his team’s break down the right-hand flank. He timed his supporting run perfectly – as he had done for the Stormers so many times over the course of the Super Rugby season – and then collected the final pass to score his first Test try.
The Boks showed plenty of attacking ambition. Indeed, it was a tip-on by Elton Jantjies that created the space for S’bu Nkosi to make that break. The hosts didn’t always get it right, but when they did, they were a joy to watch.
Jantjies came close to scoring his second when he tracked a break made by Pieter-Steph du Toit. He was held up just short of the tryline.
The momentum created by Du Toit and Jantjies, however, was eventually translated into points when Lood de Jager was awarded a try from close range.
The Boks played with a lot of enthusiasm, physicality and intensity. What they lacked – and this was expected given the experimental lineup and that is was the first Test of the season – was accuracy and discipline.
While the defenders showed an intent to get off the line at express speed, the Boks conceded too many penalties and were often cut in the midfield. The Wallabies played a smart kicking game and often found space behind Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi and Warrick Gelant.
The Boks can count themselves fortunate that the Wallabies didn’t convert more of their chances. The Wallabies had a try disallowed due to a forward pass and a further five-pointer went begging after Dayne Haylett-Petty knocked on with the tryline at his mercy.
The lineout didn’t function as well as it should have. While Francois Louw made some important turnovers – including the one that sparked the break which culminated in the first try – the Bok loose forwards battled to slow the Wallabies down at the breakdown.
It was only thanks to another big play by Jantjies – this time on defence – that allowed the Boks to go to the break with a 14-10 lead.
The Wallabies won a penalty under the posts and opted to take a scrum. Jantjies timed his run to perfection, and succeeded in knocking the ball loose.
From there, Louw clamped on to the isolated Wallabies player and won the penalty that allowed the Boks to escape their 22.
Then Jantjies delivered the blow that knocked Australia to the canvas. In the 62nd minute, the scrumhalf showed his speed as well as his vision to break down the blindside and score in the corner.
Again, it was the timing of the play that caught the Wallabies off guard.
Rassie Erasmus should feel more than vindicated after Jantjies’ performance at Ellis Park. The overall synergy of the side – and particularly in combinations like the back row, midfield, and back three – wasn’t quite there, and that will also give the coach food for thought.
The Boks ticked two important boxes on Saturday. Erasmus received some valuable answers with regard to certain individuals and combinations. The team began its season and the Rugby Championship campaign with a victory.
The first-choice players – who travelled to New Zealand earlier this week and would have watched this game in the early hours of the morning – may take heart from this performance.
While there is room for improvement, the Boks are clearly heading in the right tactical direction as they build towards the all-important World Cup in Japan.
And after all the talk in the pre-season about finding at least one excellent alternative to Faf de Klerk, Erasmus has found a special player in Herschel Jantjies.
Springboks – Tries: Herschel Jantjies (2), Lood de Jager, S’bu Nkosi, Cobus Reinach. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5).
Wallabies – Tries: Dayne Haylett-Petty, Bernard Foley. Conversions: Foley (2). Penalty: Foley.
Springboks – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds.
Wallabies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lukhan Salakai-Loto, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.
#RugbyChampionship – RESULT :
South Africa 35-17 Australia
The Springboks secure a thrilling bonus point victory in their opening clash against Australia with debutant Herschel Jantjies scoring two tries 🏉🔥 pic.twitter.com/YLhDd03CO0
— SuperSport ⚽️🏆 (@SuperSportTV) July 20, 2019
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images