MARK KEOHANE, in his Business Day column, writes Elton Jantjies showed the mistrusting, the distrusting and the non-believers he could play rugby in a Stormers jersey.
Jantjies, with a Super Rugby carrer strike rate of 79 percent, is a very good goalkicker but it is likely he won’t be doing the goalkicking again this season. His crime was to miss four kicks in the tournament opener in Pretoria and many were prepared to have him dropped immediately. Jantjies was blamed for the defeat when more accurately his forwards were the ones who had taken a beating.
Jantjies, with a pack in control, showed his attacking class against the Brumbies. He was influential in how the victory was fashioned and his performance showed glimpses of his special talent, even though it was not a performance that showcased the full array of this talent.
Jantjies is still short of confidence after the indifferent season start in Pretoria, but he would have gained belief the longer he played against the Brumbies.
He will always be a target for a big back rower or a 100-plus kilogram inside centre. Opposition teams will always see his channel as being defensively vulnerable, but those who attack his defence with bravado will be cautious when defending against his attack.
Former Lions coach John Mitchell, when he first selected Jantjies (then at the Lions), told the youngster to always trust his instincts and to back his attack.
Mitchell told Jantjies to have a go and to learn with every outing.
I got the feeling that Jantjies in games two and three at the Stormers was playing with the restriction that comes with fear of failure.
He played as if paralysed and he tried to be a link when he needs to be a game breaker.
Jantjies, when playing with confidence, carries the ball to the point of contact, sucks in two defenders and beats them with the subtlety of the pass.
Those running off Jantjies will get a better feel for his playmaking ability the more they play alongside him. The pass he threw Gio Aplon split the Brumbies defence and the one he delivered to Andries Bekker was gift wrapped for a five pointer.
Jantjies’s attacking game is his strength and he should be selected for what he does on attack. His position should not be in doubt because of what he can’t do in defence.
He is courageous and doesn’t avoid contact. If you play Jantjies you accept you lose something on defence, but you also gain a lot more in attack.
Jantjies will improve the more he plays and he must be allowed to evolve as a player. Hopefully his performance against the Brumbies ends the debate of whether or not he is good enough to play for the Stormers.
He is good enough to play Super Rugby and Test Rugby, but he will also play poor games, as we saw with Pat Lambie against the Rebels and with Quade Cooper in 2011 and 2012 and 2013, and with nearly every playmaker who has played the game over the last 100 years.
Let’s not forget that Jantjies is still only 22 years-old.
The Stormers forwards made it easier for Jantjies. They were present and imposing against the Brumbies. Duane Vermeulen was a pillar of strength and Andries Bekker played the best game in his Super Rugby career.
Rugby remains a basic game. If the forwards front and get an advantage teams will win more than they lose and playmakers like Jantjies will prosper more than they get plundered.
The only area in which they were cleaned out was at the breakdown but that’s because they played without a specialist fetcher against one of the great fetchers of the last decade.
Brumbies veteran George Smith showed the value of the fetcher. Heinrich Brussow did the same for the Cheetahs in the win against the Force.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was quoted recently as saying the role of the fetcher is obsolete and that the first player at the breakdown has to play the role of the fetcher.
I disagree with the Bok coach and my argument would be to present Meyer with Smith’s performance against the Stormers and Brussow’s impact in the last two Cheetahs wins in Australia.
The best way to nullify a potent attack is to slow down their recycled ball. The best fetchers in the game do this. The best fetchers are also specialists because to be a fetcher demands unique qualities in contact. Your fetcher plays a game within a game.
Brussouw is good enough to play for the Springboks again and it has to be accepted that like Jantjies is vulnerable when a 115-kilogram No 8 runs at him, so too will Brussouw be guilty of giving away penalties.
It makes neither of the two liabilities.