JOHANNESBURG - Elton Jantjies is a man of few words, so it is perhaps fitting that his coach speaks volumes about his performance against the French last week, while the 26-year-old flyhalf chooses to say more by saying less.
“I think it says a lot that despite an up-and-down season in the Bok jersey last year, Elton is now part of our leadership group after what we have seen in Super Rugby and how he has improved his management of the game," Coetzee said.
“Elton has played consistently well for the Lions this season and they could not possibly be where they are in the competition without a flyhalf in great form, and a year on after the disappointment for all of us in 2016, Elton is now showing that he is enjoying the pressure of international rugby,” Coetzee said.
“There is a different kind of pressure in Test rugby and Elton understands that now,” Coetzee added.
Jantjies, ever reluctant to talk, shyly said that he had settled down this season in the Springbok team albeit only a match into the international year, because he was reacting better to pressure.
“This year at the Boks in our training camps, we have looked at fixing what happened last year, and with the guys now buying into the way we want to play, it is easier for me to take responsibility for making decisions,” Jantjies said. “While we are of course expecting the forwards to make the ball as quick as possible, the flyhalf can dictate play when the quality possession is there and the guys outside him know how we plan to attack.”
It has made it much easier for Jantjies to have a game-making axis in fellow Lions players Warren Whiteley (No 8), Ross Cronje (9) and then outside backs in Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosaan and now (in all probability) Lionel Mapoe at 13 (for injured Jesse Kriel), with the starting line-up to be named on Thursday.
“Obviously, it makes it easier for you when the players either side of you are all speaking the same rugby language (that of the Lions),” Jantjies said. “It makes it easier to premeditate the calls because each guy knows what you are going to do.”
Jantjies said this year he felt more comfortable in the Bok set-up and was better used to the responsibility of becoming a Bok.
“The same goes for our wings in Courtnall and Raymond Rhule. Both of them have walked a long road in the Springbok camp without nailing down starting positions, and I think you can see they are ready to do that. They are taking the responsibility on their shoulders and embracing being Springbok finishers,” Jantjies said.
“Everybody knows we are looking to play with more width and while that is hopefully going to bring the wings more into the game, we have to be mindful that France know how we want to play, and are probably going to try and put the ball in behind us,” the flyhalf added.
“We are going to have to be tighter on defence around the fringes of the rucks and we have to box clever after showing our hand last week,” Jantjies said. “They are wiser about us and we are wiser about how we must play against them last week.”