JOHANNESBURG – Ever wondered why Elton Jantjies has become a better, stronger and more confident No 10 in recent times?
He says his taking up boxing in 2015 has been vital in his development as a more accomplished player.
And he’s hoping the new-found skills gained will help him and his teammates drive the Lions to even greater success in this year’s Super Rugby competition, which for the Lions gets under way tomorrow with a match against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
And it’s not only Jantjies who’s punching, sparring and skipping as a side project; he’s managed to get several of his Lions teammates involved in the sport as well.
“I’ve been doing it for a few years now, initially with (former fighter) Sebastiaan Rothmann as my trainer, but more recently I’ve been boxing with the Slow Poison Boxing Academy,” explains Jantjies.
“It’s something that’s definitely helped with my fitness; it’s given me stamina to go longer.
“Boxing fit is different to rugby fit but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t add value... and in this case the boxing has definitely added value. My upper body is stronger and I feel I move quicker now, because of the foot speed needed to box efficiently.
“And I think my decision-making on the rugby field has been helped because of the quick decisions one has to make in the ring.
“It’s all about going the extra mile to be better than the next guy.”
Of course, Jantjies isn’t the first rugby player to take up boxing. The most famous modern-day player to climb in the ring has got to be All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams, who’s actually fought professionally.
He is currently the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association heavyweight champion and WBA International heavyweight champion.
Williams also said some years ago that boxing made him a better, more confident and mentally tougher sportsman.
He once described his preparation for a fight in 2010 as being “good off-season training”.
All Blacks boss Steve Hansen has also previously endorsed his players climbing into the ring.
Just last year when Williams announced he’d pull on the gloves for a charity fight in December, Hansen said: “We’ve got guys boxing all the time as part of their training. I’ve got no problem with him (Williams) doing it.”
Australian rugby also have their own man to cheer on in the ring, namely flyhalf Quade Cooper, who debuted on the undercard of Williams’ fight with South African Francois Botha in early 2013.
“You’ve got to try get better and evolve as a sportsman,” says Jantjies. “I certainly feel fitter, stronger and faster.”
And it seems the boxing bug has bitten a number of the Lions’ players, with the likes of Marvin Orie, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Courtnall Skosan, Lionel Mapoe and Hacjivah Dayimani now also pulling on the gloves in their spare time.
So, can we expect Jantjies to go the same route as Williams and take on a professional at some point? “It’s tempting... maybe, definitely,” chuckles the flyhalf.@jacq_west