Jantjies must step up in Boks’ quest for redemption

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Unforced errors, an average tactical kicking game, a goal-kicking record that needs to improve, a passive defence and - perhaps most importantly - not enough magic as the backline conductor from Jantjies saw the Bok coach losing patience and desperately calling on Morne Steyn for an ambulance job against Australia.

Then Patrick Lambie was hauled in as soon as he was physically over his concussion problems - never mind the fact that he played just 20 minutes of Currie Cup.

That is how bad it got for Jantjies, who was voted the SA Super Rugby Player of the Year for his sparkling performances in helping the Lions to the final.

You could’ve argued that the 26-year-old wasn’t allowed to adopt the same attack-minded approach at Test level, which contributed to his struggles, although Jantjies wasn’t convincing in anything he did.

But Saturday at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff he gets a second chance, and will have his Lions inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg alongside him. They are almost telepathic in their understanding at franchise level, and it could make all the difference in getting the Bok attack going.

Jantjies claims he has always had the ‘freedom’ to play it as he sees it, but if you listened to Coetzee over the last few months, that’s hard to believe. However, the selection for the final Test of the year suggests the coach has removed the shackles for real this time. Perhaps maybe because his own time is up.

“I think the coach always had a plan with me and Faf (de Klerk). We got some game time in the Championship, and against Italy as well. Getting a start against Wales is quite special for me, and I’m just going to do my job - just inspire the guys around me and make sure I do my job well. I’m not putting a lot of pressure on myself. I just want to enjoy myself,” Jantjies said.

“I’m challenging myself on decision-making, and taking that leadership role as well. I’m calm, and the guys know what’s expected.

“We’ve always been given the freedom. We just have to focus on getting the right platform, making sure certain areas in our game we’ve been working on comes off in the game.

“When we get the opportunity, we will express ourselves. But it’s all about the team - playing in the right areas of the field, winning the territorial battle, which is either through running the ball or kicking the ball. So, it’s about making the right decisions at the right time.”

Jantjies did have his other Lions mates, Warren Whiteley and Faf de Klerk, alongside him for most of the Test season, and Springbok fans will hope to see them also letting loose for a change.

The Boks have little to lose against the Welsh, and a big part of unlocking the opposition defence is Janse van Rensburg. “We discussed it during the week. We are going to do what we’ve been doing together, making sure we communicate well and that Rohan gets over the gain-line. That’s the important thing,” Jantjies said.

“But the biggest thing is how we are going to use him. We are going to have to use him effectively for him to give us that platform - from first-phase or second-phase, whenever he’s going to carry - or being a playmaker.”

Wales have been far from their best during the autumn internationals as well, beating Argentina 24-20 and Japan 33-30. They lost 32-8 against Australia, and, although those results are better than what the Boks have done this season, they will be keen to repeat their 2014 triumph over South Africa today to ease some of the pressure on coach Rob Howley.

But that is nothing compared to the storm brewing around Coetzee, whose performance will be reviewed by SA Rugby next week following seven defeats in 11 Tests.

The display against Wales could affect Jantjies’ future as well, with Lambie hoping to be 100 percent in Super Rugby next year and Handre Pollard making his return from a year away from the game in 2017.

Whatever’s been tried before hasn’t worked, so the Boks may as well go out and try something different this time around in what will be captain Adriaan Strauss’ final Test. “There’s a great sense of energy, really positive. And looking forward to see the young players getting an opportunity and expressing themselves, and make a statement in the jersey and in SA rugby,” Jantjies said.

“There will always be that pride and hunger when you wear this jersey, because you never know if it’s your last game.”

Saturday Star

Original source: Jantjies must step up in Boks’ quest for redemption

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