Elton back in the mix for Lions

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iol spt mar6 Jantjies Gallo Images Having had to sit on the sidelines watching his teammates return to Super Rugby, Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies is set to face the Sharks. File photo: Richard Huggard

Elton Jantjies is back for the Lions. Having had to sit on the sidelines watching his teammates return to Super Rugby, the twice-capped Springbok flyhalf is set to face the Sharks this weekend.

Jantjies struggled with injury going into the season and has had only one outing this year, against the Pumas in a practice game two weekends ago. But, according to Lions assistant coach Swys de Bruin, the 23-year-old will feature against Jake White’s team on Saturday. “Elton’s in the mix,” confirmed De Bruin.

It will be made clear today whether Jantjies will move straight into the Lions’ starting team, at flyhalf, or play off the bench. The man who’s worn the No10 on his back in the first three rounds of Super Rugby, Marnitz Boshoff, is probably also the star performer of the first few weeks of action, so deciding where to slot Jantjies in will be a difficult one for head coach Johan Ackermann.

Boshoff was instrumental in leading the Lions to victories against the Cheetahs and Stormers, but the good news for Ackermann is that Boshoff is equally comfortable at fullback, paving the way for Jantjies to return at No10. “The competition for the flyhalf spot is very healthy now that Elton is fit again,” said De Bruin. “Elton and Bossie complement each other well, at 10 and 15, so there’s space for both.”

Ackermann will not want to leave Boshoff out, especially with him in such good goal-kicking form, so the possibility is he’ll move to fullback in place of Chrysander Botha.

Jantjies’ return will give the Lions an added attacking edge against a Sharks team that have won both their games up to now and look like South Africa’s strongest challengers this season. White’s men are, however, coming off a bye and the Lions may look to make the most of their inactivity last weekend when they meet in Durban on Saturday.

De Bruin, though, says the team have hardly discussed the fact they’re playing the in-form Sharks. “We’re not even looking at our opponents. For us it’s about getting our processes right and ensuring we’re sound in the first phases, and if we do that, then it doesn’t matter who we’re up against.”

Despite going down to the Bulls last weekend, De Bruin says he and his fellow coaching team are more than happy with the start the Lions have made to the season. “If you told me at the start of the season we’d be heading to Durban with two wins behind us, I’d have taken it. We lost a week ago, but that was away from home. The crucial thing is winning at home ... it’s a bonus.”

The likely inclusion of Jantjies is probably the only change to the side that played last weekend. Powerful wing Anthony Volminck, who’s also sidelined for a few weeks, will play for the Golden Lions against the Leopards in the Vodacom Cup this weekend and will be considered for Super Rugby duty next week.

Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen has hurt his neck and will not complete the tour of Australasia with the Cheetahs. His team face the Reds in Brisbane this weekend. Oosthuizen has had neck problems before and he is expected to consult a specialist next week. - The Star

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