MARIETTE ADAMS and DYLAN JACK debate which scrumhalf in the current Springbok conditioning group should serve as the backup to Faf de Klerk.
Adams says Herschel Jantjies
Faf de Klerk is the incumbent Springbok scrumhalf, of that there is little to no doubt. But who should deputise for him in this all-important forthcoming international season?
On the basis of his outstanding campaign for the Northampton Saints in the recently concluded English Premiership and European Challenge Cup, the easy option would be Cobus Reinach. But Herschel Jantjies was equally impressive in his breakthrough season for the misfiring Stormers. Despite his team’s inconsistency, the 23-year-old still emerged as the best-performing South African scrumhalf in Vodacom Super Rugby.
It’s easy to pull out statistics – like Reinach’s 12-try tally trumping Jantjies’ five – to illustrate why the former should be ahead of the latter in the Bok pecking order, but one has to consider the quality of opposition faced and the difference in length between the southern and northern hemisphere’s respective seasons.
I also believe Jantjies should be given preference because he is based locally. In 2017, Jantjies joined Welsh club the Scarlets on a short-term deal much like then Western Province teammate Brandon Thomson did for the Glasgow Warriors. Both were offered lucrative permanent deals. As it turned out, Jantjies opted to return home and bide his time before earning an opportunity in the Cape side’s Super Rugby squad. Thomson chose to stay at the Scottish club.
Jantjies’ loyalty – coupled with the form he has shown – should be appreciated and rewarded.
South African rugby has long searched for a scrumhalf general to rival the All Blacks’ Aaron Smith. And while Jantjies is by no means on the same level, his crisp pass, strong defence and all-round game management is the closest we have to a Smith-type player. He should be afforded the opportunity to at least show the value he can add to the Springbok side.
Jack says Cobus Reinach
Thanks to an excellent season with the Northampton Saints, Reinach has finally earned himself a long-awaited recall to the Springbok squad. Having won his last Test cap in 2015, a hunger to once again prove himself has been brewing in the 29-year-old.
Reinach has shown this season that he more than possesses the attributes to fill in for De Klerk should the Sale Sharks man need a rest or pick up a knock. He has scored 12 tries, many of them intercepts from incredible defensive reads, which puts him tied-first on the Premiership try-scorer list this season. Reinach has also matured from the rash player we saw at the Sharks into someone who picks his moments to fly out of the defence and pressure the attack.
While I firmly believe that Jantjies is an extremely exciting prospect for the Springboks, he is still a very raw talent and has the inconsistencies one would expect from a player of his age. Reinach, meanwhile, has been through the grind, experiencing the highs of earning a first call-up, the disappointments of losing his place in the Test squad, and the challenges of adapting to new conditions in a new environment.