Cape Town - One of the finest sub-plots to the Springboks’ victory over the All Blacks on the Gold Coast at the weekend was the performance of Elton Jantjies.
The Boks departed for South Africa via Brisbane on Sunday following a remarkable 31-29 win over the Rugby Championship-winning All Blacks in a thriller of a Test.
The result saw the South Africans bounce back from three defeats on the trot – two against the Wallabies and one against the Kiwis in their 100th Test in Townsville a fortnight ago.
In their last meeting against the New Zealanders for the 2021 season, Jantjies came on at flyhalf – with starting No 10 Handre Pollard shifting to midfield – after wing Sbu Nkosi left the field after taking a knock to his head.
It was a longer run than usual for Jantjies, who had been unused in the three Tests the Boks played in Australia prior to their victorious outing against the All Blacks. While he was named on the bench for the game in Townsville, he didn’t get any game time.
On Saturday, Jantjies came on in the last 20 minutes and steered the Boks to victory in a match that was certainly testing, not only because of the quality of the opposition, but also considering the team had been in a bio-bubble environment for over four months. With Jantjies in the driving seat, the Boks showed their grit to bounce back and also snap a three-match losing streak.
For years now the exciting flyhalf could just do nothing right in the eyes of many.
Despite leading the Lions to three Super Rugby finals – and that’s not something you would be able to do if you were a mediocre No 10 – and being such a key figure in that team, the little he would sometimes get wrong in an overall-solid performance would be zoomed in on.
Despite being the second-highest points-scorer of any South African Super Rugby player in their last 10 years in the competition, despite making the third-most try-assists and gaining the most metres, despite making the most clean breaks of any of the SA flyhalves, we would always have to hear how he lacks big-match temperament.
But what did his game at the weekend say about his abilities?
In the latter stages of an extremely tense match, Jantjies put in a perfectly-struck drop-goal to hand the Boks a 28-26 lead. And, after Jordie Barrett regained the lead for the Kiwis with less than two minutes to go, Jantjies stepped up and snapped the match-winning penalty. And let’s not forget about that try assist to Makazole Mapimpi.
Jantjies’ contributions were massive, and it shines even brighter considering his lack of game time in Australia, and the little time he has spent in the Test arena this year overall.
After Saturday’s game, there can be no questioning his BMT or his abilities as an international flyhalf.
Coming on in the last quarter and showing such composure to guide the Boks in such a high-pressure situation and contributing those touches said more about Jantjies’ quality than any of his detractors’ words can.
He is not just a top provincial player. He is not unreliable. He is a player who – despite the lack of Test minutes this year – took the chance he got to expertly steer the Boks against their greatest rivals in a match that meant so much considering their recent string of results.
So, considering all that, you can simply call him Elton, the Test-match winner.