You’ve got to ask yourself what more Elton Jantjies needs to do to get a chance to show what he can do at Test level?
Jantjies was the big omission from the 28-man Springbok squad named on Wednesday for the Rugby Championship Tests against Australia in Perth and New Zealand in Dunedin next month.
While Jantjies didn’t travel with the rest of the Bok squad to Argentina last week – where Heyneke Meyer’s team drew 16-16 – he did run out for the Lions in a Currie Cup match and kicked seven out of eight attempts at goal to almost single-handedly beat Western Province. But it wasn’t only his accurate goal-kicking that caught the eye, but his general play, too. He was creative and zippy on the attack and solid in defence ... and it would be fair to say Jantjies is full of confidence and in the form of his life.
The man who is effectively keeping Jantjies out of Meyer’s team is Johan Goosen, the ridiculously talented No 10 from Bloemfontein, who earns his first call-up. The only problem is he’s just returned from spending four months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury and will go on tour with just over 40 minutes’ game time behind him against Griquas, last weekend. Meyer is not the only man in South Africa who rates Goosen highly and wants him to be part of the Bok squad, but many, including Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske, feel it’s not the right time to include him.
“I don’t think he should be called up to the Springboks just yet. I’m not just saying that out of a Free State viewpoint, but rather because he is a young player who has been out with a big injury for four months. What use will it be to make him play in difficult conditions in Australia and New Zealand. It just doesn’t make sense,” Drotske told supersport.co.za this week.
Drotske believes that Goosen should experience a bit more Currie Cup before he takes the next step up. “I think he needs three or four games for us to get his confidence and self-belief up and then he will be 100per cent ready when the Springboks return from overseas to play at home. That would be my call on how to manage him.”
Meyer, though, has gone another route and said the following on Wednesday: “I believe Johan has a long career ahead of him at Test match level and we will expose him when and how we feel it will benefit the player and the team best.”
Besides Goosen getting his call-up, Western Province loose forward Duane Vermeulen also got into the team for the first time yesterday, after being picked before but never going on tour or playing a match for his country because of a raft of injuries. He, like Goosen, only returned to the game recently and has just over an hour’s playing time behind him.
“While Duane and Johan are medically fit, their provincial coaches felt it necessary that they get more game time in the Currie Cup this weekend, but as we don’t have a lot of time to prepare and we need as much time with them as possible to get them used to our structures and game plans, the decision was taken to select them for the tour. I regard both of them as world class rugby players. If it wasn’t for injuries, Duane would have been a Springbok long ago,” said Meyer.
Apart from the inclusion of Vermeulen and Goosen, there were recalls for Juan de Jongh as well as Bath loose forward Francois Louw. Two players who’ve been part of Meyer’s squads up to now but miss out are Keegan Daniel and JJ Engelbrecht.
“Untimely injuries to Bismarck du Plessis, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Pierre Spies, JP Pietersen and Bjorn Basson have already hit us hard in the past few weeks. This again provides opportunities for other players to put up their hands. We were very keen to give Siya Kolisi an opportunity on this tour, but he is also out injured, alongside a list of other injured or unavailable forwards that include Gurthrö Steenkamp, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Ryan Kankowski.”
The Springbok squad will assemble in Johannesburg on Thursday and is scheduled to depart for Perth on Saturday evening.
Backs: Zane Kirchner, Pat Lambie, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, Jean de Villiers (capt), Juan de Jongh, Frans Steyn, Morné Steyn, Johan Goosen, Francois Hougaard, Ruan Pienaar, Jano Vermaak
Forwards: Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen, Marcell Coetzee, Jacques Potgieter, Francois Louw, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Pat Cilliers, Dean Greyling, Beast Mtawawira, Adriaan Strauss, Tiaan Liebenberg, Craig Burden – The Star