FILE - Lions captain Elton Jantjies runs the ball during their Preparation Series match against the Sharks at Ellis Park Stadium last month. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
FILE - Lions captain Elton Jantjies runs the ball during their Preparation Series match against the Sharks at Ellis Park Stadium last month. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Lions’ Ivan van Rooyen pivots his attention to selecting a new 10

By Morgan Bolton Time of article published Apr 14, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG – Rugby, like all dynamic systems, ebbs and flows and if a team is to survive and adapt, then it must roll with those undulations.

So, when Elton Jantjies and the Lions announced on Tuesday that the skipper would be departing on a temporary basis to play in France for Top 14 side Pau, you'd expect a few punches landed hard on fans and the union alike.

Make no mistake, losing Jantjies is a blow to the Joburg-based team, as the 30-year-old has played a big part in the team's successes and has weathered an equal measure of lean times.

But, with a Bulls fixture barrelling down on the Lions, Ivan van Rooyen has had no choice but to take the hit, and is now ready to strike back with plans of his own to fill the gap left by the flyhalf. And Van Rooyen has options. First in line, and battling for that coveted No 10 jumper will be Tiaan Swanepoel and Fred Zeailinga, but they are not the only options.

ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Elton Jantjies says he’s off to France to stay sharp for Springboks

"Tiaan played a couple of games in the preparation cup," Van Rooyen explained in an interview with Independent Media on Wednesday, "and it is logical to expect Fred will play a bigger part.

Tiaan is a solution for us at flyhalf for us ... Jordan Hendrikse is with the SA Under-20s – he won't be involved next week but is in the squad. Fortunately, if one guy is not available, then the other guy can step up – it is a great opportunity. For the immediate future it is (Swanepoel and Zeilinga at 10).

"Fred and Tiaan are both established 10s," the coach continued. "Tiaan has played a lot of junior rugby at 10, even though we are currently playing him at 15. There is also Luke Russouw and Aidynn Cupido in our system – they are also recognised players that can play 10 or 12."

The departure of Jantjies will certainly have a roll-on effect on positions in the backline, especially at full-back. If Swanepoel finds himself utilised at pivot to a greater extent, then the No 15 jersey is up for grabs. Here, too, Van Rooyen is confident he has the personal.

"It is important for us to have, especially, players that can play in multiple positions," said Van Rooyen.

"Someone like EW (Viljoen); he can play 15, 14, 13. Tiaan can play 10 or 15. With the squad sizes getting smaller, I think it is important to have pivots that can play more than one position. If Tiaan is the better option at 10, then EW will play a bigger role at 15. We haven't finalised the team as yet – so we still need to decide that – but if one of the guys gets an opportunity at 10, then it will be time for EW and Divan Russouw to step up at 15."

ALSO READ: Elton Jantjies off to play in France in bid to keep fit for British and Irish Lions

Jantjies had the extra responsibility of the captaincy, and it is a role that still needs to be decided on, one that has Van Rooyen still pondering his options.

Said the coach: "We will have to make a final decision (on the captaincy). I will sit down with the team and the senior players. There is nothing final but there are a good couple of options available, it is just for us to first decide who is going to be in what role and how we are structuring the team."

Van Rooyen also revealed that Jantjies would not be available for selection for the opening three games of the Rainbow Cup, starting with the Bulls next weekend, and that a discussion will take place afterwards as to whether to recall him to the team. With the future of that tournament still uncertain, it might well be that Jantjies only returns once the Springboks are called to camp.

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

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