Lions need Elton to kick on

Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies still has plenty to prove in terms of his goal-kicking and game management in the big matches, writes JON CARDINELLI.

The Lions will face a New Zealand side for the first time in 2017 when they host the Hurricanes in a semi-final on Saturday. The game should reveal whether the Lions have learned from their tactical failings in the 2016 final. The Hurricanes won that decider 20-3.

The playoff at Ellis Park will also reveal whether Jantjies has what it takes to succeed in the crunch clashes. His track record against New Zealand teams, in both Lions and Springbok colours, hasn't been good over the past 12 months.

The pressure applied by the Hurricanes defence resulted in Jantjies making several costly errors in the 2016 final. And who could forget Jantjies' error-strewn performance against the All Blacks in Christchurch? It came as no surprise when he was dropped from the starting side for the home Tests against Australia and New Zealand.

More recently, Jantjies missed four kicks on goal in the quarter-final against the Sharks, a match the Lions were fortunate to win by a slender two-point margin. The flyhalf missed two penalties and two conversions to cost his side 10 points.

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To be fair, Jantjies has been one of the most accurate kickers over the course of the 2017 tournament (with a 78% goal-kicking record during the conference stage). His most recent failures in a do-or-die match must be cause for concern, though.

Overall, it hasn't been a great year for New Zealand teams as far as goal-kicking is concerned. All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett missed three goal kicks in the second Test against the British & Irish Lions (which the tourists won by three points) and two kicks in the third (which ended in a draw).

The Hurricanes averaged 70% in front of goal (rank 14th in the tournament) over the course of the conference stage. Beauden handed over the goal-kicking duties to his brother Jordie ahead of the quarter-final against the Brumbies. The 20-year-old utlity back converted six of his seven attempts on goal in that playoff. 

The Crusaders averaged 69% in this department during the regular season. The wet conditions in the recent quarter-final between the Crusaders and Highlanders were hardly ideal for the goal kickers. Richie Mo'unga converted three of his six attempts, leaving nine points on the park.

Those misses did not cost the Crusaders the game on that occasion. A repeat performance in this week's semi-final against the Chiefs, however, could bring an end to the Crusaders' great season.

Damian McKenzie finished the regular season with a goal-kicking success rate of 77%. Last Saturday, in the quarter-final against the Stormers at Newlands, the Chiefs fullback converted four of his five attempts to steer his side to a 17-11 win.

The Stormers were made to regret their own misses on goal. Fullback SP Marais missed a penalty attempt late in the game that would have given his side the lead.

OPINION: Lions must learn from Sharks scare

Photo: Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli