PORT ELIZABETH - While a big crowd for their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina might be “nice”, Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies knows that a packed Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium won’t win them the match - only an 80-minute performance will.
But playing in front of a huge home crowd should certainly help, I mean, if not, then what’s the big fuss about home-ground advantage, right?
Jantjies highlighted the threats the Argentinians will pose, but at the same time the Lions playmaker also seemed confident in the preparations the Boks have done in the Windy City until now.
“It’s nice to have a lot of support and to have a lot of people behind us, but that’s not going to help win us the game. We have to pitch up on Saturday and we’re going to have to play for 80 minutes,” the pivot said at the team hotel.
South Africa, of course, need no reminding of what Argentina can do.
According to Jantjies, the Boks are well prepared for everything that makes the Argentinians so dangerous - from their scrum to their breakdown to their inventiveness on attack.
“They have a very good set-piece - their scrum and their lineout are very strong - and they’re going to challenge us there. Their first two phases on defence are also very good, so we’ll have to be sharp in terms of our momentum with our first and second launch. I think that’s going to be key," Jantjies said.
“We’re going to have to be very sharp because their captain makes quick decisions, like if we’re not ready he’ll throw the ball in quickly. And their scrumhalf will take a quick tap, so we’ll have to be very aware.”
But Jantjies should also have his own checklist for Saturday.
Last year, Jantjies was one of SA’s favourites after a series of superb performances in the first half of Super Rugby, but when he put on the Bok jersey against Ireland, more and more questions were gradually asked about his ability to perform in big matches (some of those questions weren’t even gradual, some people started spewing doubt as early as his first shaky Test match).
So it's his Rugby Championship performance against Argentina in Nelspruit last season that he will want to erase with a superb one this weekend. And maybe the Super Rugby final disappointment as well.
For Jantjies, and the rest of the Boks’ Lions, their Super Rugby final defeat to the Crusaders in Johannesburg must have been a tough one, but Jantjies added that the honour and excitement of being part of the Bok squad certainly helped them move on from their second final defeat in two years.
“It’s always a huge honour to be part of the Bok group, you never take it for granted. There are guys who come and go, so it’s a privilege for me to be here,” Jantjies said.
“But just to be back with the boys that new energy and that new culture (is great). We’re just taking it day by day. So it’s nice to be back. And it’s easy to settle in, because of our management and the way we want to play.”
Jantjies has been a bit up and down with his goalkicking, but the 27-year-old said that he has been working on his relationship with the posts, and added that other things like creating space and decision making were also at the top of his improvement list.
“For me goal-kicking is just about trusting my body and trusting my technique. It’s something that you work on a lot, repeating the same routine every time, so it’s all about trusting your body and believing in yourself until it becomes instinctive,” he said.
“There’s a few things I’ve been working on. Every day I go to the training field - making sure I make the right decisions at the right time, whether it’s in the attacking zone or the defensive zone.
“I challenge myself to make the right decisions every single time, and to create some space for my outside backs as well. That’s something I really aspire to, to create space for the guys on my inside and outside.”