Today, at his home ground of Ellis Park, the Lions No 10 will earn his 100th Super Rugby cap. It has been an exhilarating ride for the man who is still only 27 years old. He has enjoyed huge highs and plenty of lows, but as his coach Swys de Bruin said this week, he is “the real general” for his team.
“I’ve always admired his style of play, even when I was working in Durban with the Sharks,” said De Bruin on the eve of today’s Super Rugby match against the Brumbies (5.15km kick-off).
“I’ve now been lucky enough to work with him for six years here at the Lions, and he’s a real general. He’s taken plenty of knocks, but he’s always come back ... unlike other flyhalves who’ve come and gone.
“The thing that makes him so special is that after 99 Super Rugby games he’s still so coachable.
“He’s tenacious and a fighter and never gives up. He’s also an inspiration to those around him.”
It was in 2011 when then coach John Mitchell handed the 20-year-old his first start, against the Bulls in round one of the competition that year.
“It’s something I always wanted to achieve ... to play Super Rugby, and of course internationally. That first game was a big highlight for me, but it wasn’t a good game. I missed a few kicks and we lost,” said Jantjies this week.
Indeed, the Lions lost 24-20 to the Bulls, his opposite number Morné Steyn kicking one conversion and four penalties to his one conversion and solitary penalty.
Much has changed with the Lions, and for Jantjies, since that day, and like De Bruin said, the Lions flyhalf is still doing his thing.
“Yeah, getting to the 100 caps is a massive milestone,” said Jantjies. “But it’s not about me, it’s about the team and I just hope I can make a positive impact this weekend. I just want to go out there and do my job and inspire my team-mates.”
He said those men who’ve inspired him over the years include Steyn, Pat Lambie, Butch James, and internationally the likes of Dan Carter, Jonny Wilkinson and Stephen Larkham.
“There have been great players, real legends, who I’ve learnt from, looked at what they brought to the game. And then also coaches Akkies (Johan Ackermann) and Swys (de Bruin) ... they played a big role after my mentor, my father, passed away,” said Jantjies.
Jantjies is himself something of a Lions legend now and he’ll be called on to produce some magic today against the Brumbies.
The Lions are coming off a disappointing tour of Australasia where they lost their last three games so they need to get back to winning ways.
Not only will it be a big physical test for the Lions, but a mental one, too.
Doubt about their recent performances would have crept into the minds, even though they have scored plenty of tries and played quality rugby at times, so it’s a big ask for De Bruin’s men.
The Brumbies might not be the classiest side around, but they have an ability to make life tough for the opposition and have some seasoned men to call on to help get them over the line.
One of those is star flank David Pocock who returns to the set-up this week and should give Kwagga Smith a royal challenge at the breakdowns.
It’ll also be interesting to see how the Lions’ new-look centre pairing of Aphiwe Dyantyi and Rohan Janse van Rensburg stand up to Tevita Kuridrani, who also makes it 100 appearances today, and his midfield partner Kyle Godwin.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Franco Mostert (capt), 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Dylan Smith
Reserves: Corné Fourie, Jacques van Rooyen, Johannes Jonker, Len Massyn, Marnus Schoeman, Ross Cronjé, Shaun Reynolds, Ruan Combrinck
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Andrew Muirhead, 10 Christian Leali’ifano (capt), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio
Reserves: Robbie Abel, Nick Mayhew, Ben Alexander, Blake Enever, Lachlyn McCaffrey, Tom Cusack, Matt Lucas, Andrew Smith.