Rassie: Jantjies not far from 'something great'

Elton Jantjies (Getty)
Elton Jantjies (Getty)

Cape Town - He is one of the most polarising figures South African rugby has ever seen, but Elton Jantjies still has the backing of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus

The 28-year-old flyhalf has guided the Lions to three straight Super Rugby finals without winning any, while he has struggled immensely over his 26 Test matches to convince that he has what it takes to be backed in big matches at international level. 

Jantjies was poor in Saturday's Super Rugby final loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch, while his last contribution in Bok colours was even worse. 

Given the No 10 jersey in the 3rd Test against England at Newlands in June, Jantjies was all at sea in an error-ridden performance that many felt was the final nail in the coffin of his Bok career as South Africa fell to a 25-10 defeat in the wet. 

While his attacking flair has never been questioned, it is instead Jantjies' game management and ability to do the basics well consistently that has been exposed in big matches. 

Some pundits felt that he would be excluded from the Rugby Championship squad for 2018, but instead it was Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez who missed out on Monday. 

Erasmus has named Handre Pollard, Jantjies and Damian Willemse as he three specialists in the position. 

And, listening to Erasmus speak on Monday, it is clear that Jantjies is still the second-choice playmaker behind Pollard. 

Some of that might come from the fact that Lions coach and Bok attacking specialist, Swys de Bruin, is a massive believer in Jantjies' ability. 

It is not only Jantjies' natural talent that has caught Erasmus' attention, but also his attitude. 

"I never knew Elton before I started coaching him here at the Boks. I didn't know him as a person," Erasmus said.

"I'm not here to defend a guy's character, but he's one of the best guys to work with in terms of analysing, wanting to get things right and staying to do extra (after training).

"It's difficult to explain to people and there might be some that love this and others that hate what I'm saying."

Erasmus added that what Jantjies had achieved at Super Rugby level should not be under-estimated.

"To take a team to three Super Rugby finals consecutively as the flyhalf, you must be so close to doing something really great," he said.

"In the same breath, when you don't make it, people judge you on that.

"If Handre Pollard goes down now, there is no doubt in my mind currently that Elton will be our second choice and we will run with him."

While Erasmus was heart-felt in his faith in Jantjies, he did acknowledge that the player's struggles at the highest level were something that needed to be ironed out.

"Whatever his hiccups are at that final hurdle, we must help him with it and sort it out," Erasmus said.

"I think one of the biggest things, and it's maybe something I must speak to him about in person, is that he's played Super Rugby and gone to Japan many times without a minute of rest. Maybe that also catches up with you.

"I have no doubt about his talent and we must find a way for him to perform right through to the highest level and that's our job as coaches to help him do that."

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