Flyhalf Elton Jantjies has been thrown a lifeline by coach Johan Ackermann ahead of the Lions’ four-week tour of Australasia.
Injured and then overlooked for the first part of the Super Rugby season, Jantjies has been recalled to the Lions’ starting team for their match with defending champions, the Chiefs, in Hamilton on Saturday.
A shoulder injury kept the 23-year-old out of action during the first few rounds of action, but he was back in the Lions’ starting team in round four, against the Sharks, but after a rather ordinary showing, Ackermann opted to play Marnitz Boshoff in the No 10 jersey in all the games since then.
But with the Lions not picking up a win, or a log point, in their last three matches, Ackermann feels it is the right time to give the twice-capped Bok another opportunity.
“It’s really a rotational switch. I’d like to give Elton an opportunity as Bossie (Boshoff) has started in the five previous matches. Elton has been training well and has been very positive,” said Ackermann from Hamilton yesterday. “I will make use of everyone on tour as all the guys are training and have to get an opportunity.”
Boshoff, who played at fullback when Jantjies last started a few weeks ago, will play off the bench this weekend, meaning the flyhalf will also handle the goal-kicking duties. Ackermann said a big challenge awaits his young group, especially as they’re up against the free-scoring Chiefs, first up.
“There’s excitement in the group as many of the guys are experiencing New Zealand for the first time. As sportsmen we would like to win all our games, but as a management team we don’t know how this young group will respond to the travel, new stadiums and so on.
“The guys are very positive and we’ll stick to our mindset from the start of the competition, and that is to stay in a weekly process, prepare as well as we can, play as hard with fight, and start over on every Monday for the next challenge.
“The Chiefs will be very tough… they’re the defending champions and they’re playing at home, and with them having lost a few games, will be highly motivated to do well.”
Besides the change at flyhalf, the Lions welcome back fit-again captain Warren Whiteley, who missed the match against the Stormers, while Faf de Klerk is also back in the No 9 jersey. Veteran wing Deon van Rensburg also returns.
Ackermann said Whiteley would definitely boost the side.
“Warren is a highly positive person, he energises the group and as a player he gets through a lot of work. His tackle rate is right up there and he’s one of our top lineout forwards. It’s great to have him back.”
Lions: Chrysander Botha, Deon van Rensburg, Lionel Mapoe, Stefan Watermeyer, Courtnal Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley (capt), Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Martin Muller, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Dreyer, MB Lusaseni, Willie Britz, Ross Cronje, Marnitz Boshoff, JW Jonker. - The Star