Johan Reiners / Gallo Images
- Elton Jantjies’ dream of adding to his international cap tally is not as fanciful as one would expect.
- Bock coach Jack Nenaber has not ruled out the possibility of giving the Lions legend some game time if the team’s No. 10 puzzle ahead of the World Cup becomes more complicated.
- Willy Le Roux has also positioned himself as a viable option to cover the position.
Elton Jantjies back in an actual new Nike Springbok jersey?
National team coach Jacques Nenaber has not ruled out the idea that a flyhalf appearance is previously unlikely before the World Cup in France in light of the continuing uncertainty over the injured Handry Pollard.
The Lions legend, who was voted to half a Super Rugby contract in 2020, was only drafted into the squad after Pollard’s calf problem was confirmed, and despite only being third or fourth choice in the position, he was lauded by his teammates for his impact on training sessions.
While Damien Willems and Manny Lebbock could reasonably be expected to receive the bulk of the remaining game time before the tournament, the sudden change in circumstances means Jantjies will require match fitness as well.
“We’ve always said Elton is our fourth choice flyhalf. He could become No. 3, if Handry doesn’t work out,” said Nenaber from the Boks’ base in Pretoria, as they prepare for next Saturday’s Rugby League match against Argentina at Ellis Park.
“The main thing is [Damian and Manie] He will get the majority of the game time but Elton needs it too. He hasn’t played for a long time.
“We have to try to balance that as much as we can over the next two matches. I don’t think there are a lot of countries with four flies available.”
Interestingly, Jantjies could easily find himself in the international wilderness if the Bok management decides that Willie le Roux’s versatility can make up for the specialist cover shortage in the number 10 shirt.
The mercurial 33-year-old has long been a staple of the Boks’ offensive rig, but his role as an alternate first receiver and decision-maker has become more pronounced over the past year.
And his recent campaign with Japanese club Toyota Verblitz has only cemented his suitability as the Boks’ main pivot cover in emergencies.
“The funny thing is if you go back and look at Willy’s games in Japan, he’s played over 15 games for Toyota,” said Nenaber, who politely reminded Jesse Creel, who was sitting next to him, that this is “almost every game.”
Willie is definitely an option.
That will certainly be in the near future if Willems and Libbock provide enough evidence that they should be considered the only specialist candidates if Pollard is not a fit in time.
“It’s an option very much like what we did with Frans Stein at the previous World Cup. We went with just the top 10 and then Elton and Handry and then France was always our third choice to stand in case of injuries,” said Nenaber.
“It will depend on whether we pick two or three out of the top ten – then Willy becomes an excellent choice to take over there.”