Did one man play himself into, and one man play himself out of, the Springbok team on Saturday?
That’s what plenty of rugby fans will be asking themselves after Elton Jantjies’ solid outing for the Lions in the Currie Cup and Morné Steyn’s less than satisfying performance for the Boks in Argentina?
Whatever Bok boss Heyneke Meyer decides going forward there can be little doubt Jantjies is getting closer and closer to winning a first Test cap. He was again hugely instrumental in the Lions getting the better of Western Province in a round three Currie Cup match at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday and afterwards his coach Johan Ackermann was full of praise.
“He’s just a great footballer and to perform at that level after being out of the game for some time (while with the Boks) shows you just how good he is,” said Ackermann. “He’s a great attacking player, but he’s also solid in other areas as well.”
Jantjies knocked over seven penalties for a haul of 21 points, but it was the danger he posed with ball in hand and his strong defence that caught the eye.
The performance also showed the Lions are far from being done with now that they’ll no longer feature in Super Rugby next season. They were committed in all they did and at times dominated the men who just a few weeks ago won the South African Super Rugby Conference.
“These are tough times for the players, but they know they’ve got a job to do ... and they’re going to take it one week at a time,” said Ackermann. “You can see the guys are playing with plenty of energy and intensity and that’s all one can ask for.”
The win puts the Lions at the top of the standings and they’ll be confident of making it three wins out of four this weekend when they host Griquas, who came unstuck against the Cheetahs on Saturday.
Naka Drotske’s men seem to have found their rhythm after a poor first outing against the Lions and must now rank as one of the favourites to go all the way. It’s never easy winning in Kimberley but they were impressive in scoring four tries and will be confident going into this week’s game.
They’ll be up against a hurting Sharks side who suffered their first defeat of the campaign at Loftus on Saturday. John Plumtree’s men ran into a fired up Bulls outfit who put together a very sound performance.
The Bulls’ mental strength and staying power, though, will come under scrutiny in Cape Town when they take on Allister Coetzee’s men who are likely to lose Siya Kolisi, Juan de Jongh and perhaps even Duane Vermeulen for the match; all three men likely to team up with the Boks this week.
And Coetzee knows his team need to take a step up if they’re to be serious title contenders this season.
“We lost too much ball at the breakdowns (against the Lions) and we didn’t get the balance right regarding our attack and sticking to the structure. We also concede far too many penalties,” he said after his side’s defeat in Joburg. – The Star