Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann says flyhalf Elton Jantjies deserves a fair opportunity with the Springboks.
This is the 22-year-old pivot’s fourth Bok call-up since 2010, but he is yet to make his official Test debut.
Jantjies was included in Heyneke Meyer’s squad for the June Test series against England and the opening Rugby Championship Test against Argentina, but was dropped following the fixture in Cape Town as Pat Lambie and Johan Goosen provided back-up for Morne Steyn during the tours to South America and Australasia.
The reactions from pundits and on social networks have varied, with some believing Jantjies’ Super Rugby and Currie Cup form in recent seasons proves he’s capable of excelling at the highest level, while others argue he’s just not Test quality.
However, Ackermann believes he has the ability to make an impact on the international scene.
‘Every flyhalf has his weaknesses and strengths. In terms of the total package, Elton has what it takes to make things happen for the Springboks,’ Ackermann told keo.co.za. ‘I really hope Elton gets some game time over the next two Tests – the only way he’s going to prove himself is on the field.
‘I’d rather have him playing with the Lions in the Currie Cup if he’s not going to be used.’
Ackermann added that Jantjies’ confidence has taken a hit because of the lack of faith in him at Test level.
‘One week, he’s seen as the second choice behind Morne Steyn. Then suddenly, he’s dropped, without getting a run.
‘This had a negative effect on the player. But I kept him motivated when he returned to the Lions. I told him to keep focusing on his game, hold on to his confidence and remain consistent. He’s done that and he’s been the in-form flyhalf in the Currie Cup. He deserves his Test chance.
‘Heyneke should go with the two young flyhalves [Goosen and Jantjies] against the Wallabies and All Blacks. Morne is struggling and needs a mental break from rugby. Johan should start as he’s been in the squad in recent weeks, and Elton can come off the bench.’
Meanwhile, the Lions have also lost prop CJ van der Linde and fullback Jaco Taute to Bok duty.
Ackermann believes 21-year-old Taute could be pushed straight into the mix.
‘He’s the kind of the player the Springboks need,’ said Ackermann. ‘He motivates the players around him. He’s big and strong, and makes an impact whenever he gets the ball.
‘He’s returned from injury two weeks ago, so he shouldn’t start. But he’ll be a great option on the bench as he can play most positions in the backline – from inside centre to fullback.’
By Gareth Duncan