JOHANNESBURG - Rassie Erasmus shouldn’t look past Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies to be his halfback pairing for Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Wellington.
There would have been some pressure on the Springbok coach to reconsider who should wear the No 9 jersey this weekend, following De Klerk’s poor showing against the Wallabies last Saturday, but the former Lions man remains the best choice for the job. And Jantjies also deserves to hang on to the No 10 jumper after his performance in Brisbane.
Saturday’s Test is arguably the biggest for the new-look Boks, as well as for Erasmus, who will want to show they have made progress and developed after getting the better of England in a three-Test series in June.
The Boks have their backs to the wall after back-to-back defeats to Argentina (in Mendoza) and Australia (in Brisbane), which makes this weekend’s Test all the more important. Erasmus has said he will pick his strongest, most experienced team for the All Blacks challenge and De Klerk and Jantjies must be part of that starting XV.
De Klerk may not have enjoyed a good outing last Saturday - there will be some who would suggest it was his worst Test - but he is still the best man for the job. He is the most experienced scrumhalf in the squad and has shown in the past he has what it takes to be a success at the highest level.
His service is swift and his runs around the fringes are better than anyone else’s in the squad. He keeps the opposition guessing and has the ability to make something happen from nothing at any time.
De Klerk is a must-starter, ahead of Ross Cronje and Embrose Papier, but Erasmus will do well to consider putting the Lions man on his bench. Cronje is the steady, experienced operator of the three No 9s and Erasmus showed last weekend he is not willing to back rookie Papier when the going gets tough.
Jantjies is the logical choice to partner De Klerk. Besides the fact that the two players know each other and have played regularly together for the Lions, Jantjies came out of last weekend’s match in Brisbane with no scars, unlike the other flyhalf option, Handre Pollard, who didn’t enjoy a good outing last time out, in Mendoza.
Pollard, who might be Erasmus’s first choice No 10 going forward, hasn’t really hit any great form since regaining the flyhalf berth and appeared to be down on confidence in his last outing. But Jantjies played well enough in trying conditions last weekend to give Erasmus hope that he will also deliver in Wellington, where conditions could be just as nasty.
Also, Jantjies seems to have a few more tricks up his sleeve - like his pin-point kick-passes for his wings to run onto - and appears to be kicking well at goal too. Of course, whoever Erasmus picks to wear the No 9 and 10 jerseys on Saturday will only be able to shine if the Bok pack mans up and gives them a sound platform to play from. Erasmus will name his matchday squad tomorrow.