Springbok scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies has opened up about growing up in Kylemore in an uncut clip from ‘Chasing the Sun’.
Jantjies completed a remarkable rise last year when he was named in the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship and World Cup.
The 24-year-old made a memorable Test debut by scoring a brace of tries against the Wallabies and followed that up with a last-minute score which allowed the Springboks to snatch a draw with the All Blacks in Wellington.
However, as Jantjies explained in an uncut clip from the documentary on the Boks’ 2019 World Cup win, life could have been very different for him.
‘I come from a really eenvoudige, really simple lifestyle. Kylemore is not the worst place to grow up but it’s also not the best,’ Jantjies explained. ‘Obviously, we had role models growing up. I had role models, who were at their peak and then dropped it, whether that was through alcohol, drugs or whatever.
‘There are guys that I know who played Craven Week, who could have been sitting here, doing this interview, but for obvious reasons, stuff happened and they didn’t make it.
‘That was tough for me to see. I didn’t want to be like that, I don’t want to sit back one day and say, “I could have been here, played in a World Cup. I could have, I could have.” It was always a thing to make my parents proud and make myself proud. My success is a way of saying thank you to those who stood by me and supported me and were there for me since day one.
‘It’s become the norm in coloured communities, for young kids to get caught up in drugs or alcohol. It is most probably because of a lack of heroes within the community. As humans, we like to reach out to tangible things, that we can see or touch or feel part of.
‘There were a lot of guys – who played rugby for the Cheetahs, played provincial rugby – that sort of threw it away. It’s not because of them not wanting it. It’s because of the environment created for them and not knowing how to get out of it. Friends have a massive impact on someone’s life and it is very, very easy for anybody growing up in an environment like that to get caught up in it. ‘
After helping the Springboks win their first Rugby Championship title, Jantjies was one of three scrumhalves named in their squad for the World Cup in Japan, alongside Faf de Klerk and Cobus Reinach.
He added that he never took his place in the squad for granted and the competition between himself, De Klerk and Reinach kept all three halfbacks on their toes.
‘For me, being in a World Cup and it being only my fourth game in a Springbok jersey, every game was do or die,’ Jantjies said. ‘We were three quality scrumhalves in that squad and it could have easily been the other way around for me.
‘Each one of us kept one another on their toes. I guess that was the beauty of our team as well. Everyone on our team wasn’t set out as the No 1. It could have easily, with form dipping, been the other way around.’
Photo: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK