Currie Cup

Elton Jantjies relishing reunion with partner-in-crime Ross Cronje to tame Province

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Ross Cronje and Elton Jantjies earlier this season against the Stormers (Gallo Images)
Ross Cronje and Elton Jantjies earlier this season against the Stormers (Gallo Images)
  • The composure brought in by the experienced halfback duo of Ross Cronje and Elton Jantjies could be key for the Lions in their Currie Cup match against Western Province.
  • With both teams expected to be desperate for a positive result, some franticness can be expected.
  • Lions captain Jantjies hails Cronje as an intelligent and inspiring figure in the squad.

In a Currie Cup clash that's widely considered to be one between two "desperate" teams, composure could be the match-winning factor amid the franticness.

Which is why the Lions have potentially played a trump card in restoring the wily duo of Ross Cronje and Elton Jantjies as their halfback partnership against Western Province at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The two were integral to the Lions' golden run in Super Rugby between 2016 and 2018, performing so well together that they were even the first-choice combination at Springbok level under Allister Coetzee in 2017.

But the 31-year-old Cronje has experienced some injury problems recently, prompting the franchise to be a bit more exploratory in terms of a No 9 to support Jantjies.

While the Lions skipper has been hugely adaptable with the rotating cast of scrumhalves - 22-year-old Morne van den Berg has seized his opportunity to an extent in the past month or so - Jantjies admits it's good to have his proverbial partner-in-crime back.

"Yeah, it's really nice to have Ross back," the Springbok said in a surprisingly enthusiastic tone on Thursday.

"He's a guy with a lot of knowledge. He's a different personality that brings a different energy to the team too."

Cronje has indeed never tried to paint himself as a flashy player, instead differentiating himself by being dependable in a sea of gifted, mercurial team-mates.

"Ross' big strength is that he keeps the group accountable," said Jantjies.

"He has a different role in our team to be honest, a special one. He brings a lot of leadership and I'm hoping he takes his opportunity because the rest of the guys like Andre Warner and Krappie (Van den Berg) are really training well too.

"I'm obviously comfortable with any of the No 9s, we're in a good space in terms of depth at scrumhalf. But I'm really looking forward to playing alongside Ross again. 

While Ivan van Rooyen, the Lions' head coach, agrees that the depth at his disposal is heartening, Cronje's presence does represent an insurance policy of sorts.

"We have Andre who has really upped his game at training and Krappie, who brings a sense of X-factor to the game," he said.

"But Ross is consistent and reliable. He's seen the picture before, knows what it's about. He knows that Province will bring to the table. There's leadership and calmness from him.

"We just thought it's an ideal time to give him a go. He can provide us with something different and we're looking forward to it."

Kick-off at Ellis Park is at 19:00.

Teams:

Lions

15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole

Substitutes: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Roelof Smit, 22 Morne van den Berg, 23 Dan Kriel

Western Province

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Johan du Toit, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Tristan Leyds, 24 Jaco Coetzee, 25 Kade Wolhuter, 26 Rikus Pretorius  

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