JOHANNESBURG – The good news is the Lions will have Elton Jantjies on their books for two more years – the bad news is Warren Whiteley’s World Cup dream is just about over.
Springbok flyhalf and Lions veteran Jantjies has signed to play for the Joburg team for two more years, up until the 2021 season, putting an end to speculation that he would be headed abroad following this year’s World Cup in Japan.
Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli confirmed the news of Jantjies’ continued involvement with the three-time Super Rugby runners-up on Thursday.
“Elton is one of our experienced players here at the Lions, and thanks also to SA Rugby and the new contracting model, we’ve been able to keep him in South Africa until after the 2021 season,” said Straeuli.
“That means Elton will play for us up to the tour by the British and Irish Lions in 2021.
“Elton is on the list of ‘players of national interest’, which means he is contracted by us at the Lions, but there is financial assistance from SA Rugby.
“This is an example of the new contracting model being put into action.”
Meanwhile, it seems Whiteley’s dreams of playing at the World Cup in Japan later this year have been dashed.
The No 8 and regular Lions captain was hoping to play against the Blue Bulls in a Currie Cup game this week to show national coach Rassie Erasmus he was over the injury problems that so badly interrupted his season.
He also hoped to get the nod for next week’s Test against Argentina in Pretoria, the Boks’ last before the 31-man World Cup squad is named at the end of this month.
Whiteley has suffered with a knee problem for much of this year.
It was confirmed on Thursday that the 31-year-old is not yet fit to play, with Straeuli saying they would not push the loose-forward into action simply because there is a World Cup squad announcement in a few weeks’ time.
“It is frustrating for the player... injuries are the most frustrating part of any players’ career,” said Straeuli.
“The doctors have a game-plan though, and we’re going to back off and not put any pressure on him.
“He’s simply progressed slower than we thought he would after the surgery. The tissue in his knee has to heal now... he has to be completely fine before he plays again.
“I suppose the lesson we’ve learned in this is that players should not be pushed into action when they’re not ready.
“Every player needs to be fully recovered before they do something which is not to their benefit.”
Whiteley’s season has been underlined by setbacks. In week two, in mid-Frebruary against the Stormers, he tore a muscle in his chest, putting him out of action until mid-April, when he returned to the field to lead the Lions against the Chiefs in a famous win in Hamilton.
But he hurt his knee in that game and spent another three weeks on the sidelines, returning in mid-May for the match against the Waratahs.
And it was in that fixture where he did more damage, ruling him out of action until today.
The Lions said they would assess Whiteley on a week-to-week and day-to-day basis.@jacq_west