Elton Jantjies (captain) of the Lions and Siya Kolisi (captain) of the Stormers during the SuperFan Saturday match between Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on September 26, 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)
- Rassie Erasmus has put an end to the 10 debate, announcing Elton Jantjies as the immediate first choice Springbok flyhalf.
- Incumbent Handre Pollard is out for nine months after injuring his ACL playing for French club Montpellier.
- Jantjies faces stiff competition for the jersey from Damian Willemse as well as Curwin Bosch.
Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus stopped the flyhalf debate dead in its tracks on Monday when he pronounced World Cup-winning pivot Elton Jantjies as the new incumbent, following Handre Pollard’s long-term layoff.
World Cup star flyhalf Pollard ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee this month while playing for French club Montpellier and is in a race against time to make the Boks’ British and Irish Lions Tour squad, after being ruled out for nine months.
In the meantime, there was a mad dash for who would possibly replace him in the interim, if the Boks chose to honour the Rugby Championship.
Erasmus was unequivocal: Jantjies is the immediate first choice.
“I’ve got lots of faith in Elton,” Erasmus said.
“When he’s playing in a good structure, with a good pack of forwards, he’s unbelievable. In my opinion, Elton would be the immediate first choice, just on his potential and what he’s done before.
“There were times before the World Cup when Elton was really pushing hard for Handre’s spot but at the end Handre was obviously the No 1 and he did pretty well.
“[But] there are some young boys who will be pushing Elton really, really hard. Damian Willemse is definitely somebody who can do it for you at 10 and 15. You’ve still got a guys like Frans Steyn, who, if he’s still around and still fit, can slot in at 12 or be on the bench and cover 10 and 12 for you.
“You’ve got Curwin (Bosch) and if he gets a good run … that’s why I’m so excited, whether it’s the Rugby Championship or the double round Currie Cup/Super Rugby. I love it when there are long competitions like we are going to have now from the 10th of October.
“Coaches get tested, conditioning coaches get tested, players get tested. You have to go to Griquas, in Kimberley, and try and win there and then go to Nelspruit the next week.
“That’s where players grind and get hard and figure out if they can do it or not. Sometimes in a five-week Currie Cup, you ca’’t really learn a lot from that.
“If we go into the Rugby Championship, those names I’ve mentioned will probably be the flyhalves in the mix. Of the guys that stay behind, there’s the [likes of] Kade Wolhuter and so many youngsters coming through.”
Jantjies, 30, said after the weekend’s Super Fan Saturday rugby restart friendly between the Lions and Stormers at Loftus that he was not interested in a duel with Willemse, 22.
Willemse will provide some pretty stiff competition, however, especially if he settles at No 10 at the Stormers, as expected.
Bosch, once the Sharks get back in sync following their drubbing to the Bulls last weekend, is also expected to mount a strong challenge.
But Erasmus ruled Pollard’s absence, who could be badly short of match time by the time the British and Irish Lions arrive in SA next year.
“Yes, losing Pollard is always a massive blow,” said Erasmus.
“We know what he can do and what he did, so I don’t even need to discuss how big a blow it is. On the other hand, I don’t think there was more of a team man or somebody serving the team (all of them did) than Elton Jantjies.
“He stood out at the World Cup; the way he helped us win the World Cup, whilst only playing three games and when we went to the six-two (bench) split. It was unbelievable.”