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THEY have been almost gun-barrel straight with their goal-kicks this year, and tomorrow at Newlands, Peter Grant and Elton Jantjies can put some extra heat on Morné Steyn as the Bulls man tries to cling on to his Springbok No 10 jersey.
Steyn’s troubles with the boot and his general play in the 2-0 series win over England may have put his Bok berth in jeopardy, and coach Heyneke Meyer has issued a challenge to Steyn to “get it right” in the remaining three Super Rugby league matches.
In the meantime, Jantjies, who sat on the bench in the final Test in Port Elizabeth, will get his chance to stake a claim for a Test spot at Newlands tomorrow, where he will come up against a man who many feel is just the steadying hand that the Boks need at flyhalf.
Jantjies was unfortunate not to make his Test debut in the second half in PE, with Meyer deciding to persevere with Steyn despite the Bulls man being off his game. It nearly resulted in a defeat, and certainly cost them victory (and boos for Steyn) as he missed three out of six goal-kicks in the 14-14 draw. Steyn struggled with his goal-kicking for most of the England series, slotting only 12 out of 22.
Now the 21-year-old Jantjies will go out to show the Bok coach what he is made of. Circumstances can’t be tougher for the Lions, with coach John Mitchell suspended after the players complained about how he treats them. They are also second-from-bottom on the log.
Despite the Lions’ poor record of only two wins out of 13 this year, Jantjies has shone with his audacious playmaking skills, quick feet and consistent goal-kicking. If the Lions forwards can secure enough good possession, Jantjies is the man who can trouble the star-studded Stormers backline.
Grant is a very different type of flyhalf. He makes few mistakes, throws a lovely long pass when the Stormers do decide to play with width, attacks the gain-line by running hard at the opposition and is a solid defender.
Of course, he has showcased his unflappable temperament with some vital penalties over the last few years that have won games for the Stormers in their march to the playoffs.
But the one area where both pivots may come short in is their tactical kicking. And that is something that’s non-negotiable for the Bok coach – a flyhalf who can “hit the grass”, as they say nowadays, behind the first line of defence, who can win territory for their teams in the defence-dominated modern era of South African rugby.
Both Grant and Jantjies find it difficult to get the ball behind the wings with their boots, although the Lions No 10 is marginally better with his accuracy and execution. He is a more natural kicker of the ball than Grant and is more fleet-of-foot, where Grant is more mechanical in his kicking action.
The Stormers general also lacks enough distance on his tactical kicks and penalties to touch, and those extra metres are crucial as it could mean the difference between a lineout on the 22-metre or five-metre line.
Jantjies certainly has the bigger boot of the two, and will look to beat the ruthless Stormers defence by employing small chips over the top for the likes of strong runners such as Lionel Mapoe, Deon van Rensburg and Andries Coetzee to chase.
With Andries Bekker back and the Lions missing both first-choice props in CJ van der Linde and Pat Cilliers due to injury (Van der Linde may play off the bench), the Stormers should be able to win front-foot ball at the lineouts and scrums.
Their biggest challenge will come at the breakdowns, where rookies Tyrone Holmes and Don Armand will come up against hardened Super Rugby loose forwards in Derick Minnie and Josh Strauss.
No 8 Siya Kolisi will have a major role to play in guiding Holmes and Armand, and if the Cape side can at least achieve parity at the breakdowns, they should be able to unleash their backs in their push for the all-important four-try bonus point.