PRETORIA – The Bulls can learn a thing or two about being down and out and rising to the top again from their flyhalf Tony Jantjies.
It was just over a year ago that Jantjies was plucked from the rugby wilderness, overweight and with little or no hope of ever fulfilling his potential.
Fast forward to a year after being picked from rugby’s rubble and Jantjies finally made his Super Rugby debut against the Highlanders on Saturday and now stands on the verge of another personal and career milestone when he squares up against his brother, Springbok and Lions star flyhalf Elton.
The 25-year-old Jantjies is a strong contender to start in the number 10 jersey in Saturday’s match at Ellis Park in a game that will not only divide fans across the Jukskei River but will do so in the Jantjies home as the two brothers rekindle their duel.
However, the younger of the Jantjies brothers, Tony, doesn’t buy into the hype of facing his brother and instead is looking at lending a hand for his beleaguered Bulls side in the same way they helped resuscitate his career last year.
“We’ve played against each other in the Vodacom Cup and in the Currie Cup. At the end of the day it is nice to play against him but it is not about that,” said Jantjies.
“I would love to play in a winning team, I would love to do so much for my team and it is all about the team for me. I can’t put myself before the team.
“If I can do my basics well and the team can function well and we have a good result this weekend, it will be absolutely amazing and then afterwards I can have a laugh with my boet. But at this point we just want to win and everything is for the team and not about me.”
The fact that Jantjies had been earmarked for a sparkling career from his hey days at Hoerskool Menlo Park to him making his senior debut for the Bulls in Currie Cup rugby in 2012 and it all ended with him being discarded by the Eastern Province Kings after only five months in Port Elizabeth before returning to Loftus, should serve as an inspirational story for his Bulls teammates who have all but been written off ahead of their clash against the Lions.
Jantjies is optimistic that in all the doom and gloom that hangs over their heads at the moment, there is certainly a silver lining for the team as long as they play without fear of failure and with the freedom that coach Nollis Marais has handed them.
“I think being an underdog in life is a good thing. People don’t expect much from us so we can go out there and play good, quality rugby,” he said.
“The fans have already shown that they don’t have hope in us and everybody is writing us off but I promise you that on Saturday we will give everything and we will play without fear.
“That is what the coach wants for us to play without fear and with freedom and that is what we’ve been working on. If the team does well then everything will go according to plan.”
The Bulls have been rocked by the unavailability of Springbok scrumhalf Piet van Zyl due to pneumonia while Springbok wing Jamba Ulengo will undergo a late fitness test on a leg injury.