Distorted tale of two talents

MARK KEOHANE, in his Business Day column, writes that one rule seems to apply for Johan Goosen and another for Elton Jantjies.

Jantjies will be back in the transfer market after his Super Rugby commitments with the Stormers and my advice to him would be to get the hell out of Cape Town.

Jantjies is a darn good flyhalf. He is just 22 and one of South Africa’s most exciting talents. He is an investment and he has already played big games, the biggest of which was his 40 minutes against the world champion All Blacks in South Africa last year.

Yet so many are treating him like a kid who has never done anything and who needs to do it in 80 minutes to get another chance.

The media around Jantjies in the past week was shocking, short sighted and prejudiced. It will be explained and justified as passionate supporters and rugby media in the Cape refusing to accept second best.

I don’t buy that. The supporters and media have only known second best in the history of Stormers rugby.

Jantjies missed four penalties against the Bulls in the season opener – a match in which the Stormers forwards took a beating.

Jantjies was blamed for the defeat. He was deemed not good enough, defensively and as a goal kicker, and the kicking was given to Joe Pietersen, who promptly banged over the first kick from the corner.

The Stormers coaching staff made all the right noises about backing Jantjies in the build-up to the visit to Durban and then promptly pulled the player after 52 minutes.
Peter Grant replaced Jantjies and the former’s qualities of stability and Super Rugby experience were backed to break a 3-all deadlock in Durban.

Jantjies had created the only try-scoring chance in the first half with a perfectly weighted cross kick to Gio Aplon who knocked on the ball.

A similar moment, be it through a clever kick, a break, a step or something magical, as Jantjies did regularly for the Lions, could have won the match for the Stormers, but the coaching staff showed no trust in the genius of the young Bok.

Grant, who spends his year between Cape Town and Japan and is only available for Super Rugby doesn’t add the attacking dimension of Jantjies, whose career would be better served playing for coaches and in a region that values his natural game.

The Stormers are a team that plays low risk and defence orientated rugby. It makes them difficult to beat but it does not make them unbeatable.

Given the attitude towards Jantjies and the rush to revert to what is safe but has never translated to success in Grant should be a red flag to Stormers supporters that this season will again be one in which the hope will be greater than the conviction of championship glory.

Humidity in Durban and Brisbane always make for testing encounters in February and March. Teams struggle with ball control and it is difficult to play with attacking confidence.

I wasn’t surprised with the nature of the contest in Durban and I wasn’t surprised with the result. It was always going to be tough for the Sharks but it was a game they couldn’t afford to lose, regardless that it was this early in the tournament.

John Plumtree, when I interviewed him pre the tournament, said to win the competition a team had to start well and finish well. The Sharks, with an away victory and a home win against the Stormers, have started well. Winning against the Stormers was very necessary in the context of gaining an edge in the South African Conference.

The Sharks composure was impressive, especially scrumhalf Cobus Reinach. He will be a Springbok sooner rather than later as he is the best scrumhalf in South Africa. Francois Hougaard is a better athlete and definitely a better winger but he isn’t as good a scrumhalf.

Hougaard struggled against the Force and he is playing with the strain of issues greater than rugby; he recently lost a good friend in Reeva Steenkamp. He deserves empathy and not rugby ridicule.

The Bulls clearly underestimated the Force and were fortunate to win and get a bonus point, but the men from Pretoria will be more miss than hit on their overseas trip.

The Cheetahs were given a second half lesson in Hamilton and Johan Goosen’s goalkickng was as poor as it was a week ago. It was equally inconsistent against Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

Goosen’s misses don’t evoke quite the vitriol that accompanies a Jantjies miss and the Cheetahs taking a beating somehow never is deemed an embarrassment to South Africa rugby.

There are so many (myself included) willing Goosen to succeed. I just wish there were as many who gave Jantjies similar support, starting with his coach.