fast little loans
Cape Town – Elton Jantjies and Gio Aplon are regarded as two of the hottest attacking talents in South African rugby, but they have under-performed so far for the Stormers in 2013.
Jantjies and Aplon are at opposite ends of their careers, one having just broken into the Springbok squad, and the other trying to fight his way back in, but seemingly out of favour with the current management.
But they know that national honours will only be a reality if they perform in Super Rugby, and they have been far from their best in the Stormers’ opening two games. Jantjies was viewed as the man to finally get that Stormers backline going upon his arrival on loan from the Lions, but the spark has just not been there.
He has stumbled his way through defeats against the Bulls and Sharks, missing four penalties at Loftus, being run over by Wynand Olivier and Francois Steyn, knocking the ball on a few times and choosing wrong options on attack.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has said that he wants the 22-year-old to “run the show” for the team, and that Jantjies must be the general. But it’s just not happening. Of course, the death of his father in late January is a definite factor, and perhaps the best thing for him and the team was to give him a break on the bench for Saturday’s clash against the Chiefs and reintroduce Peter Grant at flyhalf.
But Coetzee feels that Grant is not yet able to play at 100% for 80 minutes since he came back from Japan, and he wanted to give Jantjies another opportunity to establish himself. That’s a lot of faith being shown in the Graaff-Reinet-born pivot, and he owes it to his coach to produce a big game at Newlands tomorrow.
“Our guys need to get used to his style of play, and vice-versa. We tend to forget that Elton only really trained once prior to the Bulls game, and he’s been in only six sessions since then. It will take some time,” Stormers backline coach Robbie Fleck told the Cape Times yesterday.
“When we get into that strike zone, it’s a decision about whether to hit another forward or to look for space out wide. That’s where the opportunities were possibly lost against the Sharks – you mentioned the Elton drop goal, where he should’ve carried on playing.
“There were actually two or three opportunities where we possibly should’ve released our backs. Poor decisions by our nine and 10 let us down in that regard. It’s new, you know. Elton’s new to the team, and his relationship with Groomy is brand-new. So, combinations were always going to be an issue first-up, and they still need to settle in. But Elton is starting to understand our system a lot better, and it’s been a good week in that regard.
“I thought that Elton had a very good first half. His kicking game was excellent, and he attacked the advantage line really well. He kept our forwards in the game. It’s Nic Groom’s first time to start properly in Super Rugby, and it’s Elton’s first time with us. And it’s Damian’s first time in the big league as well. That combination will settle in soon enough, and hopefully those opportunities we are creating will be finished off.”
The moment many feel could’ve changed the game at Kings Park last week was when Aplon dropped that pinpoint cross-kick from Jantjies in the sixth minute of the first half. If the Stormers right wing had caught the ball, it may also have changed both players’ luck and helped them gain confidence.
Aplon barely touched the ball against the Bulls, and was sacrificed for Joe Pietersen early in the second half at Loftus due to Jantjies’s goal-kicking problems. The 30-year-old was a bit better against the Sharks, but still made a few handling errors and couldn’t really get into the game. He is a big player for the Stormers, and is expected to make a visible impact.
The Stormers didn’t face the Chiefs last year, and had a mixed-bag performance against them in 2011 in Hamilton. Aplon will have good and bad memories of that night, scoring a superb solo try in the first half, but then being controversially yellow-carded and giving away a penalty try in the second.
When asked if Aplon needed to get more involved tomorrow, Fleck said: “Hundred percent. It was very disappointing with the cross-kick, as it was something that we had planned and trained. Gio let himself down in that regard, but he is always looking for work, and we need to give him the ball a lot more. The ball will eventually go his way or Bryan’s way, but they need to capitalise when it does.
“Gio knows that it was a mistake, but he is a quality player and he bounced back immediately from that. He will have another opportunity this weekend.”
The Stormers’ set-piece issues and handling errors from the last two weeks are well known, and the Chiefs are a team who are capable of punishing such mistakes. But the Cape side will hope that being back at Newlands will help them to regain the consistency of the past three years to put them on the road to victory.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (capt),
12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Bench: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Tim
Nanai-Williams, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (capt), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Pauliasi Manu. Bench: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Michael Fitzgerald, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Patrick Osborne.
Referee: Jaco Peyper. Kickoff: 5.05pm. TV: M-Net/SS1/SS HD1.