Elton Jantjies needs to make the most of some much-needed international game time in Saturday’s third and final Test against England at Newlands, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
At the start of this Test season, Jantjies has effectively been identified as the Boks’ second-choice flyhalf, with the 27-year-old starting against Wales in Washington, before making a brief appearance off the bench in the series-opening Test against England.
However, Jantjies was subsequently omitted from the Boks’ match-day squad for the second Test in Bloemfontein, which quickly led to a commonplace assumption that the Lions star had fallen out of favour and might battle to force his way back into the selection mix.
Such speculation has proved to be particularly premature when one considers that all the signs out of the Bok camp this week suggest that Jantjies is set to start on Saturday in a rotational switch with Handré Pollard, who is due for a rest.
Although Pollard has firmly established himself as the Boks’ No 1 flyhalf with some assured performances over the last two Tests, Rassie Erasmus stated at the start of the week that he does want to test out some new players in the final match of the series.
Among others, the Bok coach highlighted the importance of examining the available options in the all-important flyhalf position – particularly with the 2019 World Cup in mind. And so, should Jantjies receive an extended run as expected at Newlands, it’s an opportunity he must use to stake a claim for continued selection going forward.
On Tuesday, Jantjies fronted up to the media at the team’s hotel in Cape Town. He looked cool, calm and confident. When asked what the message had been following his omission last week, Jantjies insisted that he knew exactly where he stood.
‘It was a rotation policy to give Jesse [Kriel] a run [off the bench] and for me to work on a couple of things and to get ready for a future opportunity, and to make sure that my body is in the best possible condition to perform if it comes. I’ve had a lot of games in Super Rugby this year and last year as well, so that [a break] was important.’
Having had an opportunity to rest, regroup and refocus, Jantjies needs to demonstrate once again that he has what it takes to control proceedings in a high-pressure Test match, particularly with some wet weather forecast for Saturday.
The multi-talented Lions star suggested he was fully aware of his responsibilities in a new-look Bok team.
‘At this point, it’s all about making sure that the system runs well, it’s not about the individual. I need to ensure we play in the right areas of the field and that there is a good balance in decision-making – knowing when to kick, run or pass. Obviously I also need to know how the guys around me want to play. That’s how I see rugby now, so it’s a bit different [to what it was in the past].’
Such comments point to a sense of maturity and clear-thinking that Jantjies will certainly need to rely on as he forms part of what could be a new 10-12-13 combination alongside André Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel this Saturday.
For Jantjies and the likes, a massive opportunity awaits.
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