Give Elton another chance

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Jantjies_form

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Elton Jantjies of the Stormers.

Cape Town – Peter Grant will rejoin the Stormers squad on Monday for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Sharks, but coach Allister Coetzee should stick with Elton Jantjies at flyhalf.

Grant missed the Bulls clash despite being in Cape Town, awaiting the birth of his baby, as he was under contract to Japanese club Kobe Steelers until Sunday.

But the right thing for Coetzee to do would be to persist with Jantjies for the Durban showdown, and the Cape Times understands that that is exactly what he will do.

Yes, Jantjies missed four penalties at goal and had a nightmare overall debut for the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld. He was totally off his game and was a weak link on defence.

It should be remembered, though, that he hasn’t played a game of rugby at all in 2013, and that he had to deal with the death of his father last month. But Coetzee and backline coach Robbie Fleck insisted that Jantjies had looked sharp in training and was mentally ready to play.

Indeed, he had looked in good nick during a practice in Lentegeur the week before the Bulls game, but did not train last Monday at Bellville. Coetzee explained that the 22-year-old was being “managed” due to a heavy workload with his on-field training, gym work and kicking drills.

The Stormers coach would not have anticipated such a listless Jantjies performance, based on what he has done in the past and during training since moving to the Cape late last year. The Lions loan recruit has all the tools to be a top-class flyhalf, and has shown it in Super Rugby to the extent that he was rewarded with a Springbok Test debut last year.

The Stormers management have invested a lot of time and effort in Jantjies, and want him to become their general, particularly on attack. Of course, he wasn’t helped at Loftus by the failure of the pack to fire and provide clean ball on the front foot – like Morné Steyn enjoyed from his forwards – although he has no excuse for missing those penalties.

To just chuck Jantjies to one side this early in the campaign would be wrong. He deserves at least one more chance in Durban on Saturday. He is a much better rugby player than the one we saw at Loftus on Friday. Grant would be the insurance policy on the bench if necessary.

The first half from the Stormers in Pretoria was easily the worst 40 minutes one has seen from them over the last three seasons. They made basic errors from the first kickoff, lost their lineouts, were outscrummed and generally looked sloppy. Plus Jantjies missed three kicks at goal before miscuing a fourth in the second half.

One of the most serious problems is at hooker, with Deon Fourie’s poor throwing into the lineouts a perennial weakness in his game. Fourie again contributed in the loose and won a few superb turnovers on the ground, but he’s always had question marks around his lineout throwing.

Coetzee is sure to retain him at No 2 for the Sharks match, as it is also where Fourie prefers to play, and with Tiaan Liebenberg still not 100% fit. It would be a bold call to start Martin Bezuidenhout in the front row in Durban and move Fourie to flank, where Rynhardt Elstadt, who looked short of speed to play in the loose trio, could make way. But that’s unlikely to happen.

The Stormers scrum was under severe pressure, particularly loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff, who was penalised several times for “hinging” by referee Jaco Peyper. Kitshoff remains a promising player, but Coetzee could shift Pat Cilliers to No 1 and bring in Frans Malherbe at tighthead, or even turn to the veteran loosehead Deon Carstens.

Cilliers had a knock to the head and left the field at Loftus, but Coetzee said that he “showed no symptoms of a serious head knock” afterwards.

The coach added that Springbok centre Juan de Jongh is also over his hamstring injury and will be considered for the Sharks game. He is set to replace Damian de Allende.

Joe Pietersen made a strong claim for a starting berth, probably at fullback, where Jaco Taute blew hot and cold at Loftus. Pietersen’s goal-kicking was on the mark, but Taute would most probably get another run at King’s Park on Saturday.

ALLISTER COETZEE ON...

Loss: The fact that we were so flat and never in the game, it almost looked like we were spectators in the game instead of playing the game. The fortunate thing is that we know what went wrong, and it’s things that we can fix. It was clearly our set-pieces – you can’t function without a proper set-piece. If you look at converting 50 percent of your penalties, and win 50 percent of your lineouts, I’m sure we could’ve won the game still.

Positives: The positives for me in the second half was when we kept ball-in-hand, it looked like we created opportunities out wide and we attacked them, and we scored two tries from the way we played and the way we attacked. I just think maybe we need to find out from the players whether they understood the plan 100 percent, because when we stopped kicking the ball and in the second half kept it in hand, we really got in behind them.

Right to play Elton: I have no doubt about that. It is easy to say that after the game because he didn’t have a good game. He was mentally fine, and one’s just got to manage this – I mean, all the new players were nervous. We know that the nail was knocked in very, very low, and we’ve got to raise the bar as the Sharks are very strong.

Deon’s throwing: To be honest, it’s not just Deon’s problem, as it wasn’t just the throwing into the lineout. There were a lot of timing issues, late supporting issues, and those are things that we will fix.

Bring Joe on earlier: Elton wasn’t striking the ball well, but he was still keen to kick, you understand. You’ve got to do something to get your confidence back, and until you really tried it, then that’s it. Ag, it was just one of those days when he didn’t strike the ball well.

Chilliboy try: I haven’t reviewed it, but I have my doubts about that. But we didn’t deserve to win the game, considering our performance. – Cape Times


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