Lions not focusing on a single Sharks player, says Elton Jantjies
JOHANNESBURG - It will be a case of master versus usurper this weekend when the Xerox Lions take on the Sharks at Emirates Airline Park.
There will be many palatable matchups offered by the Carling Currie Cup clash on Saturday (kick-off 7pm) but none seem as appetising as the battle of the flyhalves between Lions captain Elton Jantjies and his counterpart Curwin Bosch. In recent weeks there has been much talk surrounding the 23-year-old, born from his now constant appearances in the No 10 jumper. Those ever growing murmurs insist that the young Sharks' pivot is finally ready to make proper use of his prodigious talents at Test level in the green and gold of the Springboks.
With Handre Pollard out due to injury, the incumbent in that position within the national setup was arguably always going to be Jantjies but as this season has progressed Bosch has made that discussion a more lively one, and he now stands on the precipice of being involved in any Bok squad going forward - such has been his performances of late.
On Saturday both players - the two best flyhalves in the country - get an opportunity to assess their form against one another. But as revealed yesterday, the Lions are not concentrating solely concentrating on the mercurial Bosch.
"We definitely have a plan for the Sharks, it is all about the team for us," said Jantjies.
"There are certain areas that we've definitely had a look at in terms of their game, but the biggest focus for us is how we can get better and how we can keep improving as a group. The squad is at a good point, a good space at the moment, so, ja, we just want to keep on growing and take a lot of confidence out of our training sessions and make sure that we learn. And, ja, get the performances on Saturday."
When pressed on the matter, the always diplomatic Jantjies opened up a smidgen more.
Said Jantjies: "It will be massive in terms of territorial pressure and then obviously momentum.
"There is a certain way we play and there is a certain way that we will exploit space," he continued, "so there will see that on Saturday. We definitely identified that in terms of 'Curwie' - he has a long-range in terms of kicking.
"We have a plan for every single thing that they will throw at us, but the main thing stays the main thing and that is us. How we can apply pressure, whether it is through our kicking game or our running game or on defence. So, that is going to be the main thing - who is going to deal with that pressure in certain moments of the game … you as an individual have to do your job."
Bosha had a 75% success rate last week against the Blue Bulls, missing two of three conversion but also slotting over five penalties, including the winning three points in their 32-29 victory, while in general play, he eclipsed his more illustrious opponent Morne Steyn. Jantjies, too, only took 75% of the chances presented to him, and wracked up 14 of the 39 points against the Free State Cheetahs. He had a solid performance taking on the gainline, defending and in his decision-making, while marshalling his troops around his game management. Both will have to be at their best and put in a near-flawless performance if they are to claim victory for their respective teams.
During Super Rugby Unlocked it was ultimately their accuracy at goal that won the day, with Bosch having the final say to claim a 19-16 victory in the last 10 minutes of that game, while Jantjies missed an equalising penalty during that period, too. That could once again be the defining moment in what is expected to be a close encounter between two confident and unbeaten teams in this Currie Cup portion of the season