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Maligned by some, beloved by more: Flyhalf Elton Jantjies often splits opinion amongst rugby supporters

Elton Jantjies warming up before the first test against the British and Irish Lions. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Elton Jantjies warming up before the first test against the British and Irish Lions. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Aug 11, 2021

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Maligned by some, beloved by more; flyhalf Elton Jantjies often splits opinion amongst rugby supporters, especially when he dons the Green-and-Gold.

To his vehement detractors he lacks consistency and big match temperament, while his advocates insist that he is one of the best distributors in the game and amongst the best attacking pivots in the country.

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Either way, there will be a cacophony of voices that will argue both sides on Saturday when the Springboks open their Rugby Championship account against Argentina at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (kick-off 5pm).

ALSO READ: Matured Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies knows it's all about the team

Jantjies will start then in the No 10 jumper to give Handre Pollard a well deserved rest after the recent, brutal British and Irish Lions series victory and will, as such, have the responsibility to marshal a backline with new combinations and players that have yet to fully taste the hell-fire of Test rugby this season.

To those that downplay Jantjies' role within the Bok setup it might seem like a big ask but the fact of the matter is that the 31-year-old is now a veteran of the game, a player that has experienced almost every outcome presented to him. He has enjoyed the highs of success and the ignominy of defeat. He is a double Currie Cup winner, a three time Super Rugby finalist, a squad member of both a World Cup and B&I Lions winning teams and was rightfully selected as South Africa's Super Rugby Player of the Decade in 2020.

ALSO READ: We aren’t boring: Argentina challenge means different styles and tactics for Springboks

And although supporters might question his continued selection within the Bok set-up, coach Jacques Nienaber has no such qualms.

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Said the coach on Tuesday during the team selection for the Argentinian encounter: "Everyone has a role in terms of the team selected and regardless of whether you are in or not ...

"The big thing is that there is a very good culture within this group that allows a player to be disappointed but also allows them to realise they have other roles to fulfil and Elton has been outstanding in that.

ALSO READ: Joseph Dweba to debut as Springboks make 10 changes for Rugby Championship clash against Argentina

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Elton was excellent," Nienaber continued, "and I can only doff my cap to him. There is a difference between being disappointed and negative - he has been disappointed but he has never been negative. He never shrugs off his responsibilities, even when he is not selected - and we have many other players that do that … the contributions that they make every day is amazing."

With close to a decade of professional rugby at the highest levels behind him, the once considered brash flyhalf has matured into a pragmatist, one that is committed first and foremost to the team.

This past Saturday, in the all-important decider against the B&I Lions, Jantjies could be seen running drills with his teammates during the warm-up, in spite of the fact that he was not even within the matchday 23, and later running the sidelines as a waterboy. During the 2019 World Cup victory, the Johannesburg Lions stalwart had limited game time, especially during the knockout stages of the tournament, but as revealed in Chasing the Sun was hard at work behind the scenes prepping teammates in training and with their game analysis.

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It is this role that Nienaber alluded to - a leader off of the field - which has become invaluable to the Bok setup in recent years.

ALSO READ: Fresh faces, old heroes lined up for Springboks opening Rugby Championship against the Argentina

"Like I always say, for me it is all about the team, especially at this stage of my career," Jantjies said on Tuesday.

"When you are young, you are very much individually focussed but as soon as you get more experience, when you become a little older, you start moving more towards the team. You become a person that actually wants to get to know the players, get to know him as an individual - what he likes, what he doesn't like.

"So, whenever you guys get onto the park, you actually have something in common - the way the guy loves to play. For example, with Sbu (Nkosi), I know what he likes and for me on Saturday it is to go out there and give him what he wants and for the team as well to take up that responsibility and make sure we get the right results."

On Saturday, Jantjies will make his 39th appearance for the national team and when he does so it will be with one objective in mind: Get the result for the team.

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

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SpringboksRugby

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