CAPE TOWN – It was only a couple of seasons ago that Herschel Jantjies was turning out for the University of Western Cape in the Varsity Shield.
Now Jantjies is fresh off facing two of New Zealand’s finest teams at rugby cathedrals such as the Wellington Regional Stadium and Eden Park.
“In my mind I have always worked hard so that if this opportunity comes around I could be ready for it” the Stormers scrumhalf said from Brisbane where he is preparing to face the Reds on Friday.
“I’m enjoying the game time I’m getting. It has been good for me and I’m definitely growing. Hopefully I can get more time as the season goes on.”
Jantjies, 22, was cast in the spotlight this season after veteran halfback Jano Vermaak was injured during the Round 2 clash at Newlands. It did not take the little No 9 much time to show off his credentials, breaking away close to the tryline for a match-winning score deep into extra time.
The five-pointer against the Lions illustrated the dynamism Jantjies brings to the Stormers. He has a bloodhound's nose for a gap around the fringes, and showed it off again against the Jaguares two weeks later when he snuck over for another try in almost identical fashion.
Remarkably this makes Jantjies’ the Stormers joint highest try-scorer this season, along with captain Siya Kolisi.
But it is not only his white-line fever that has been impressive. Jantjies possesses a crisp pass, and has the vision to bring in runners off his shoulder when the Stormers have the luxury of front-foot ball.
He does, though, know that his positive performances in the early rounds of this Super Rugby season owes a lot to the powerful men playing in-front of him.
“I would say I’m an instinctive player” he said. “But our forwards have created the gaps for me because we have such a mobile pack. They make my job easier. I’m just fortunate to see that gap and go for it.”
The former Paul Roos learner is also mature enough to admit that he is far from being the finished article. The “streetwise” Blues loose forwards furthered Jantjies’ education by harassing him at the base of the scrum during the 24-9 defeat at Eden Park. It may not always have been legal, but like Kolisi said “if you can get away with it then good luck”.
It is for this reason that Jantjies is working even harder at training to counter these dark tactics, while also spending hours on ensuring his kicking game is up to the required standard.
“There is definitely less time for scrumhalves in this competition - this was especially the case against the Blues - and more pressure at the rucks” Jantjies said.
“But we obviously train for those things and my role is to get there and get the ball out as quickly as possible and try not to let anything affect me. I’ve been also working hard on my kicking especially box kicks. It’s not where I want it to be or where it needs to be.
“There has definitely been huge growth in that aspect of my game. I’m working hard on it and it certainly will become one of my strengths,” he added.@ZaahierAdams