Was Elton Jantjies what the Springboks needed in the crazy last minutes against the All Blacks?
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CAPE TOWN - IT IS only fair to the Springboks to point out that they haven’t exactly had the rub of the green in Australia in losing two of their three matches to penalty goals near the death.
But, in an indirect way, perhaps their worst piece of luck was not being able to get Elton Jantjies on the field against the All Blacks last weekend.
The experienced flyhalf was the only unused substitute on the Bok bench, and coach Jacques Nienaber has explained that the plan to add Jantjies to the game was squashed when Marco van Staden was injured while performing his heroics off the bench.
And while the loose forward managed to finish the game, Nienaber felt he had to keep Jantjies in reserve in case Van Staden had to come off.
If this hadn’t been the case, and Jantjies had been on the field for those last few crazy minutes, I reckon the Boks would have won, and that is because while the 31-year-old has his flaws, he is very good at recognising space and attacking it.
In those last 10 minutes or so, the Boks had the opportunity to take the game by the scruff of the neck and put the All Blacks away.
They didn’t because of a blinkered approach from Faf de Kerk and Handre Pollard, both of whom continued to kick relentlessly, even when space had opened up for the backs to attack.
Both of these players have subsequently said that they were following a game plan that they wholeheartedly endorse, but at the same time assistant coach Deon Davids has admitted that the game management at that time of the match wasn’t fully on song.
I cannot believe that when Pollard and De Klerk watched the game analysis, they could not see that, in some situations, kicking was the last thing they should have done, and had they moved the ball down the backline, tries were inevitable.
This was what happened in the 2019 World Cup final, when Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi scored gems.
It is impossible to believe that the Boks have a game plan that is so rigid that the players are not permitted to exploit a numbers advantage out wide that would almost certainly result in a try.
We must not forget that Jantjies was the flyhalf for the Lions when they made three successive Super Rugby finals by playing exhilarating, attacking rugby.
Surely he would have taken advantage of those gilt-edged attacking opportunities that came the way of the Boks, which Pollard either didn’t see, or did, but chose not to exploit?
Pollard did have a much-improved game, and the plan to rattle the All Blacks worked a treat, but the variety the Boks needed could then have come at the three-quarter mark in the form of Jantjies.
I know he is an erratic goal-kicker, but then isn’t Pollard?
It’s a pity the Boks could not have had the best of both flyhalves last week – fate intervened in the form of the injury to Van Staden – but let’s hope the Boks get the balance right on Saturday in the return match against the All Blacks.
Also, not all the blame should rest on the shoulders of Pollard for not getting his outside backs into action when the situation cried out for it.
I thought it was disappointing that seasoned players such as Lukhanyo Am and Willie le Roux failed to show strong leadership.
At outside centre and fullback, they are in perfect positions to read the game, and they should have called the correct plays.