Optimism that they finally found that missing piece to complete the Super Rugby puzzle, after losing the final in 2010 and bowing out in the semi-finals in 2011 and 2012. And joy that they finally got a No10 who could help them evolve their game and provide the variety on attack to help them get over that final hurdle.
A 22-year-old Jantjies was just as excited about the opportunity, as he would have a host of household names and quality players around him. Surely, this move would also enhance his Springbok ambitions even more after making his Test debut in 2012.
“It’s been awesome so far. I got a warm welcome from the team, and I have played with some of the guys, which makes it a lot easier. I also enjoy Cape Town and I can only look forward to the challenge,” Jantjies said during the Stormers’ pre-season camp in Hermanus in 2013.
“It’s awesome seeing your friends, I’m good friends with Juan (de Jongh), and playing with quality players like Gio (Aplon) and Bryan (Habana) and Jean (de Villiers). There are also plenty of exciting young players that are my age. It’s an awesome thing to look forward to.”
But then disaster struck a few weeks before the start of Super Rugby. Jantjies’ father, Thomas, a 46-year-old warrant officer in the army, died after complications from a bee sting.
The two were really close, as Elton described his father as his mentor and kicking coach. And it was tough for the flyhalf, especially because it was also his first time away from home, and away from his parents.
The Stormers gave Jantjies a few weeks off, and he came back in time for the first match of the campaign against the old enemy, the Bulls, at Loftus.
But Jantjies’ dream debut for the Stormers turned into a nightmare. He missed four penalties in 43 minutes, and he didn’t quite look in sync with the rest of his teammates. He was taken off after 65 minutes.
And those struggles continued for most of the season, as Jantjies didn’t fit into the conservative game plan the Stormers employed during that season. Their game was built on defence and a flyhalf sitting deep in the pocket and using the boot.
All that affected his confidence, because he had been through a lot in a short space of time.
This weekend, though, two years later, he will come back to Newlands a more mature rugby player, and a player enjoying the game. He looks like a Springbok, the player his father was hoping he would develop into when he left home in 2013.
Jantjies has been one of the central figures in the Lions’ best Super Rugby season yet. He is leading the charge from the flyhalf position and is putting his stamp on a team largely made up of unknowns, but unknowns who are making big waves.
His wonderful all-round performance against the Waratahs last weekend, that set the Lions up for a possible play-off spot, earned him the Man of the Match award. Even though he missed three penalties, he still had a big influence on the match with the ball in his hands and his kicking.
The running game is the big feature of his game, and how he gets the Lions over the advantage line.
Because he takes the ball very flat and runs with it in two hands, it creates confusion in the opposition’s defence. He has the skill to offload in contact, either left or right, or try and go through the gap with his quick feet.
But his range of passing is not just restricted to little offloads, as he made Ruan Combrinck’s try with a lovely floated pass that helped the winger to drift outside his defender before diving over.
“So many players play well around him because he puts them into gaps. The pass to Combrinck when he made the break down field was a beautifully delayed pass,” former Bok coach Nick Mallett said in the SuperSport studios.
“He takes it to the line before he passes and gives momentum to his backline. He plays little inside balls, he plays run-arounds and his defence has improved incredibly.
“He’s justifiably right in the running for a World Cup spot. He really has been playing fantastic rugby and is arguably the form flyhalf in South Africa at the moment.”
The crucial Super Rugby match between Jantjies’ Lions and the Stormers will bring him face to face with the Cape side’s pivot Demteri Catrakilis, a player with different strengths.
Catrakilis’ boot and the Stormers’ scrum are the chief reasons why they are leading the South African Conference.
Catrakilis doesn’t attack the line with the venom of Jantjies – in fact he often dies with the ball on attack – but there isn’t a better goal-kicker in Super Rugby than the Stormers man.
Jantjies, though, can be a good sharpshooter as well, and he can kick the ball a country mile.
And if he gets his radar on target on Saturday, and he brings his normal attacking flair and range of passing to the party, he can show Stormers fans the real Elton Thomas Jantjies - The Star
Original source: Jantjies can prove Stormers wrong