The Highlanders’ Waisake Naholo prepares to tackle the Lions’ Elton Jantjies during their Super Rugby match at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, on Saturday. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
While the Bulls’ Handre Pollard is the runaway points leader in this year’s Super Rugby competition, Elton Jantjies has again been a key man for the Lions.

The flyhalf has started every match of this year’s campaign and has played 915 minutes.

He is currently fourth on the points-scoring list with 103 points from 29 conversions, nine penalties, one drop-goal and three tries.

Pollard, in 880 minutes on the field, has amassed 161 points from two tries, 20 conversions, 36 penalties and one drop-goal.

And while the Lions may have struggled somewhat for consistency this year and have not registered as many wins as in their previous three campaigns when they went all the way to the final, Jantjies has once again done the business for his team.

His three conversions were crucial in the 29-28 win against the Waratahs in round 13, and last weekend in the round 14 game against the Highlanders he didn’t miss a shot at goal, converting five conversions and a penalty to help seal a 38-29 victory.

The Highlanders, by contrast, missed three conversions and a penalty for a total of nine points left on the field, and that was the difference between the teams after 80 minutes.

Both teams scored five tries.

Lions boss Swys de Bruin afterwards praised Jantjies, calling him a true professional.

“Elton’s a real pro,” said a delighted De Bruin.

“He spends so much extra time practising, and you can now see that it pays off. It made a difference today. He was on song in the warm-up.”

The Lions have been criticised in recent seasons for opting to kick to touch to set up a line-out (in an effort to score a try) rather than go for goal and collect three points, but De Bruin has said that the match situation would always dictate what decision was made.

“It’s a tricky one, because in a tight game if you take the three points, then you’re giving up-field position, and with the opposition kicking off to restart the game, anything can happen down in your own 22m area.

“By kicking the ball to touch, you stay in control in the right part of the field.

“But we’ve shown this year that we don’t always kick for touch. It depends on the scenario in front of us,” said De Bruin.

Earlier this season, replacement flyhalf Gianni Lombard kicked the winning penalty against the Rebels after replacing Jantjies, while last week against the Waratahs replacement flyhalf Shaun Reynolds also kicked a penalty late in the match to help the Lions edge the men from Australia.

On Saturday against the Highlanders, Jantjies slotted a second half penalty to help extend his team’s lead and put all the pressure on the visitors.

“I was keen to go for touch,” said Malcolm Marx, the captain on the day, “but I backed the decision by the bench to kick the goal. Scoreboard pressure is very important in a close game.”

@jacq_west


The Star

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