The fairytale rise of a Bok
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: The fairytale rise of South African scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies continues at Ellis Park on Saturday.
He will make his Test debut, when he partners namesake Elton Jantjies against Australia in the opening round of the competition.
It is the first of six games that also involve Argentina and New Zealand in a Rugby Championship, cut to a single round because of the World Cup in Japan from September 20.
Jantjies, 23, began this year as understudy to veteran Jano Vermaak at Super Rugby outfit the Stormers in Cape Town.
But when Vermaak was injured, Jantjies grabbed his opportunity and became the most impressive newcomer this year among the four South African Super Rugby outfits.
His form attracted the attention of Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus and he now gets a chance to become one of three World Cup scrumhalves.
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“When Herschel came up against some of the best scrumhalves in Super Rugby this season, he stood his ground,” noted former South Africa loose forward Erasmus.
“He has been consistently good this year and slotted in really well when he joined our training camp.
“Having a number of his Stormers team-mates around him has also helped and now he gets an opportunity to show us what he can do at Test level.”
Springboks backline coach and former sevens star Mzwandile Stick has hailed Jantjies for making a huge impact in his first Super Rugby season.
“Life is all about opportunities. The boy was given a chance by the Stormers and he grabbed it with both hands.
“Herschel is very clinical in terms of basic skills. He has got a good pass and when the chance arises, he will snipe and score brilliant tries.
“He is not a big guy, but he makes big tackles. That shows he is in a good mental space,” said Stick.
Scrumhalf has been a problem position for some time with a lack of depth beneath the first choice Faf de Klerk from English Premiership club Sale Sharks.
A couple of Northern Bulls, Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl, started this year as the likeliest understudies to De Klerk.
But neither had an outstanding Super Rugby campaign and Jantjies and Northampton Saints’ Cobus Reinach have risen above them in the pecking order.
Reinach is on the bench for the Wallabies Test, while De Klerk is rested ahead of a clash with world champions New Zealand in Wellington next weekend.
Fullback Willie le Roux, flyhalf Handre Pollard and hooker Malcolm Marx are other probable World Cup first choices sitting out this Test and skipper and flank Siya Kolisi is injured.