Elton Jantjies, back from a season in Japan, is edging towards the kind of form that made him a Springbok a few seasons ago and if he continues to build on his performances so far will be very close to earning a recall to the Bok squad.
Initially used as an impact player with Bok Marnitz Boshoff entrusted with the No10 duties for the Lions, Jantjies took over from last year’s surprise package to again make the flyhalf position his own. While he’s yet to get his name in lights, he’s played a major role in the Lions’ four wins so far which has seen them move into contention for the South African Conference.
Jantjies’ goal-kicking has been sound, as has his distribution, but it’s been his solid defence that has really stood out. He may not be the biggest man around, but he stands back for no-one and is prepared to put his body on the line. It’s something coach Johan Ackermann says is one of the big positives of his team in 2015.
“Look, we put in a lot of hard work in the pre-season. We knew we had to improve our defence and I think we’ve done that,” he said.
“If you look at the log and see the teams who’re at the top, competing for the play-offs, they’re all sides who are strong defensively. We want to be there as well.
“We’re reaping the rewards now and what’s pleasing is that the guys are prepared to put their bodies on the line for each other.”
Lions loose forwards Warren Whiteley and Warwick Tecklenburg still lead the tackle stats after the latest round of matches, with 117 and 98 tackles respectively. Next in line is Brad Shields of the Hurricanes with 86.
Overall, the Lions are also the best tackling team of the South African franchises, with a success rate of 88.3percent. They’re third on the list behind the Chiefs and Hurricanes.
Jantjies’ stats may not be as formidable as those of Pollard and Lambie, but his all-round contribution to the team effort puts him among the top No10s at the moment. After returning from Japan at the start of the season Jantjies said it was his goal to make it into the World Cup squad and he feels if he can continue improving he can achieve that goal.
“I’m looking to improve as a player all the time. I just want to get better and challenge myself when it comes to decision-making; it’s something that can still improve,” he said after helping his side edge home against the Bulls last weekend. “I like being the general in the team.
“While my goal is to get back into the Bok team, my focus right now is to keep doing what I’m doing, just do it better, and then hopefully we’ll be able to record a few more good results.”
The Lions are in a good space at the moment, but they’re going to have to get up and produce the goods again this weekend when the under-fire Sharks visit Joburg.
Another win could see Ackermann’s team jump to the top of the SA Conference if other results go their way.
Ackermann has again tweaked his training sessions this week to keep his players fresh and fit for the match – the ninth in a row for the Lions. Their first bye is next week. Ackermann will name his side today. - The Star
Original source: Jantjies scoring 10 out of 10