Elton Jantjies’ absence from the Boks deepens intrigue at No 10
Damian Willemse now Bok's first choice at flyhalf
The intrigue around the Springbok flyhalf position deepened with the news that Elton Jantjies will not be selected for the end-of-year tour next month to Europe and the UK.
Jantjies, who was sent home along with the team’s dietitian from the team’s tour of Argentina during the Rugby Championship last month, has not had any game time since then.
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus explained it was Jantjies’ lack of game time, rather than what he may or may not have done, that precluded his selection.
“It was mutually agreed then that we allow him to go back and handle the personal issues that were reported on. We did not know what was true or not true. He hasn’t played.
“We haven’t seen him play and we would like to compare him with the other flyhalves. We couldn’t. He won’t be up for selection,” said Erasmus.
It would be nice to take him on tour ... to see if he enjoys it. He will have to perform and play well. If fit, he will be able to do it for us
With Handré Pollard ruled out of the tour through injury, the Boks will go on tour without the two flyhalves who have filled the No,10 jersey for the bulk of the last six years.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber confirmed Damian Willemse will now be their first choice player in that position.
“He started the season third in line but he got his opportunities because of injuries. He was outstanding. He is our No 1 choice.”
The backup flyhalf position is likely to be taken by Johan Goosen.
He recently made his way back from injury but his presence at the Springbok alignment camps gives him the inside lane.
“It would be nice to take him on tour ... to see if he enjoys it. He will have to perform and play well. If fit, he will be able to do it for us,” said Nienaber.
There is no such thing that he won’t fit in our team
The Stormers’ Manie Libbok has, however, been the form flyhalf and though the Bok brains trust did not rule him out they appear to have an established pecking order.
“I coached him at the Junior Boks,” assistant coach Mzwandile Stick reminded. “He has the role of a leader and playing his best rugby at the moment.
“He kicks with both feet and I’ve been impressed with how he handled conditions (in the URC).”
Stick was keen to point out that Springbok management has no preconceived ideas about how the player will cope with the rigours of Test rugby. “There is no such thing that he won’t fit in our team,” countered Stick.
In fact, Erasmus brushed it aside as hype created elsewhere. “Maybe he wasn’t always the first-choice flyhalf at the franchises he played at previously. We don’t have influence where he plays.
“We never said he is too light or not playing the right game. Maybe he did not get the opportunities previously.
We will never try to convince a player about anything. He must be proud to play for us. He must fight his way to the top if he wants to play for us
“Perhaps what has happened to him is the opposite of what happened to Damian Willemse who played flyhalf then played 12 and 15 and developed a better understanding of what it is like to play 10,” Erasmus explained.
Stick added that Gianni Lombard was playing “good rugby” at the Lions, while teammate Jordan Hendrikse and the Stormers’ Sasha Mngomezulu also got honourable mention.
On the latter, Erasmus noted the young player was in the running to play for the SA A side that will play against Munster and Bristol Bears next month.
It has been reported that Mngomezulu is a target of England coach Eddie Jones.
“Sasha has a big chance to make the SA A team. We will never try to convince a player about anything. He must be proud to play for us. He must fight his way to the top if he wants to play for us.
“I’d be surprised if he doesn’t. I don’t care about what Eddie Jones says, it is Sasha’s decision.