Jantjies is back in Lions colours
The Springbok No 10, who played a back-up role to Handre Pollard in Japan as the Boks went all the way and lifted the Webb Ellis Cup, has had little time off since returning home with a winners’ medal in the bag.
He joined his teammates for the nationwide trophy tour celebrations two weeks ago and has now boarded a bus to Secunda, where the Lions will spend the next four days in camp ahead of next year’s Super Rugby competition.
“Yes, Elton is back with us and he’ll slot into full-on training next week,” confirmed new Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen yesterday.
“We’re into a rugby block now, focusing on rugby-related matters, having already worked on our fitness and conditioning, so we’re looking forward to the next few days.”
Also in Secunda is regular captain and loose-forward Warren Whiteley who, despite a potential career-threatening knee injury, remains an integral part of the Lions set-up.
If Whiteley is unable to play Super Rugby next year - because of his troublesome knee - he will likely take up a coaching role in the team.
The full Lions squad, including veteran Bok tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis who has joined from Montpellier in France, left Joburg for Secunda yesterday.
Van Rooyen said he was excited to have the 37-year-old Du Plessis in the ranks, but also rising No 3 Carlu Sadie, who was on loan from the Stormers earlier this season, and a number of other quality tighthead props.
“Jannie did some fitness testing today and he’s in great shape,” said Van Rooyen.
“He’ll certainly be a player the youngsters in our squad can learn from but he’s made it clear he’s here to play. He’s very keen to play Super Rugby again and I’m expecting there to be good competition between the props in our squad.”
Du Plessis last played in South Africa four years ago when he was still a Bok and Sharks regular. He will compete for the tighthead prop berth at the Lions with Sadie, 22, Frans van Wyk, Johannes Jonker and rookies Keagan Glade and Asenathi Ntlabakanye, both 20.
“Having quality tightheads in today’s game is massive,” said Van Rooyen, who has taken over from Swys de Bruin.
“In a guy like Jannie we’re getting a very experienced Test prop who is fit and ready to play. But we’ve also got exciting youngsters like Carlu, Frans, Asenathi, Johannes and Keagan who’ll push hard for their place in the team.”