Springboks / 29 August 2019, 11:50am / Ockert de Villiers
JOHANNESBURG – Thomas Jantjies would have been a proud man when his son, Elton’s name was called out among the 31 players that will represent South Africa at the Rugby World Cup in Japan next month.
It was his dream to see Elton in the Green and Gold at the global showpiece but he would never get to experience the moment after he died in 2013 due to a bee sting to the head.
Elton Jantjies said on Monday that although his father may not be here anymore, he had no doubt Thomas was present in one form or another.
“It is a privilege, and it is not that I have to go to the World Cup, Rassie (Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus) has placed his faith in me,” Jantjies said.
“Making the squad is a victory for my father, I can’t escape that; it is the reason why I play every week. It is for my dad.
“He wanted me to go to the 2011 World Cup, and I didn’t. He then died, and in 2015, I had a good opportunity, but it wasn’t my time,” he added.
Jantjies missed out on World Cup selection four years ago with former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer opting for Morne Steyn, Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard as his flyhalf options.
No matter how well Jantjies performs, he cannot seem to escape the criticism from his naysayers. Not even now that he is a regular selection for the Springboks, whether he starts or plays off the bench.
But Jantjies has never allowed poisoned opinions to get him down. He believes he has a higher purpose.
“I knew I would get offers from overseas and there would be the temptation to move, to leave the Lions or not represent South Africa,” Jantjies said.
“Guys get good contracts and go overseas.
“My rugby career is not about money, it is about my goals and my purpose, and that is to play for my father and for the Springboks.”
Jantjies made his Springbok debut against Australia in the 2012 Rugby Championship at Loftus Versfeld, four months before Thomas’ untimely death.
Stepping into the environment as a 22-year-old, Jantjies found it intimidating with the team featuring 2007 World Cup winners.
Now a seasoned veteran with 35 Test caps to his name he encourages newbies to showcase their individuality.
“I try to tell the new guys to be comfortable in their own skins, don’t try to be something else, be yourself,” Jantjies said.
Jantjies started in the opening Rugby Championship match against Australia and the Farewell Test against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld this season.
Although the Boks have been unbeaten so far this year, Jantjies believes they still need to iron out some kinks before their World Cup campaign kicks off in earnest against the All Blacks on September 21.
“We are focusing on Japan, we won the Rugby Championship, but the last game against Argentina was tough. There were aspects from that game we need to fix against Japan (in their last warm-up game before the World Cup starts),” Jantjies said.
“We can’t look further than the warm-up match against Japan (on September 7), a Test remains a Test, and it doesn’t matter that it isn’t a World Cup game.”