Why Jantjies is No.1 in the Boks' No.10 queue
INTERVIEW: South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber opened up about a possible replacement for the injured Handre Pollard.
The World Cup-winning flyhalf, Pollard, will miss this year’s re-scheduled Rugby Championship – if the Boks take part – after he was ruled out for ‘many months’ with knee ligament damage suffered while playing for Montpellier in the Top 14.
The Springboks are set to start the defence of the Rugby Championship, moved from mid-year due to the coronavirus pandemic, by facing Argentina on November 7 – with the tournament ending on December 12.
However, Erasmus and Nienaber explained on Monday that they still have to jump through many hoops before departing for Australia in mid-October.
Despite the uncertainty, they openly discussed possible replacements for Pollard – including Elton Jantjies and Damian Willemse – who were Pollard’s back-ups at last year’s World Cup and will go head-to-head in the Green versus Gold Bok trial at Newlands on Saturday.
“It is always a massive blow,” Erasmus told a virtual media briefing on Monday, when asked about Pollard’s injury.
However, he heaped praise on Jantjies for being the ‘ultimate team man’ at the World Cup.
“He was unbelievable in helping us win World Cup, even though he only played three games,” Erasmus said, adding: “Even when we went to the six [forwards and] two [backs] split.
“I have a lot of faith in Elton.
“When Elton plays a good, structured game behind a good pack of forwards, he is unbelievable.”
The SA Rugby boss revealed there were times before the World Cup when Jantjies was pushing Pollard hard for that starting spot in the Bok team.
“In the end, Handre was No.1 and did very well.”
Erasmus also pointed to Willemse as a candidate.
“He was at the World Cup and can do it [the job] for you at No.10 and No.15.
“We still have a guy like Frans Steyn. He can be on the bench and cover No.10 and No.12 for you.
“We have Curwin [Bosch], if he gets a good run.
“I love it when it is an extended competition and players get tested.
“Those will be the flyhalves in the mix if we go top the Rugby Championship.
“Elton, in my opinion, would be the first choice – just on his potential and what he has done before.
“Curwin will be pushing him really hard.”
Nienaber was clear about what he looks for in a flyhalf and what he will look at in Saturday’s Newlands trial.
“From my side, because of the COVID-19 restrictions, there won’t be a lot of training [in Cape Town this week],” Nienaber said.
“It will be nice to see them take control, getting the attack going, start playing on the front foot.
“What we would like to see is a nice calm flyhalf, giving guidance to his forwards and taking them forward.”
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This beautiful game we play has so many highs and brings so much joy to our hearts, but on the flip side in a second it can take you to a very deep low. Injuries are a part of this game we love and this is just another test of character. I am really sad that I have to leave my @mhr_officiel brothers so early in the season, I will be supporting you all the way. I am ready for the challenge ahead and coming out on the other side stronger than ever before. Thank you for every message I really appreciate it. 🙌🏻