Elton Jantjies. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG - There's only one man who should wear the Springbok No 10 jersey and that’s Elton Jantjies.

But, then he needs to be allowed the freedom to play his game, says Lions boss Johan Ackermann.

Jantjies was at his brilliant best again for the Lions against the Bulls at Ellis Park on Saturday, playing a big role in several of his team’s tries in their emphatic 51-14 Super Rugby victory.

The flyhalf’s deft touches, his off-loads, his chip kicks into space and kick-passes to the wings, and his goal-kicking were all out the top drawer. And let’s not forget about his strong tackling.

So, with Pat Lambie again concussed, Handre Pollard injured and Curwin Bosch playing for the SA U-20 team, Jantjies has the inside track to again start at flyhalf for the Boks against France next month. That is, unless coach Allister Coetzee opts to recall Morne Steyn.

But, according to Ackermann, Jantjies is the right man for the job.

“I’m very biased ... but he’s got it,” said Ackermann after Saturday’s triumph at Ellis Park, the Lions’ 11th win in 12 matches.

“I’ve been asked the questions so many times, has he got BMT, has he got the skills? The answer is he’s got everything. I’ve always said he’s got it. We love him here at the Lions. I believe he can play at the highest level. He’s got all the skills.

“He’s a player that plays with a lot of confidence and he likes the freedom. If you give him that and the players around him understand him, he can become the same as a Beauden Barrett.

“Barrett’s allowed to make his own decisions, with his cross-field kicks, his chip kicks ... he has the freedom to play and no one is on his case. Elton can play at that level too and be the same, but he needs the freedom.”

Another Lions hero who stood out in the win over the Bulls was fit-again Ruan Combrinck. The winger only got into the starting team after Sylvian Mahuza pulled out of the squad because of an injured quad muscle. Combrick, said Ackermann on Thursday, needed another game in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge competition to find his best form after only recently returning to action following shoulder surgery in December.

But Combrinck did what he does best, and with his first touch of the ball in just the second minute of Saturday’s match he chipped over the defence, gathered the ball and scored in the right hand corner. It was the same corner he scored at for the Boks last year when he debuted from off the bench and helped save them from defeat against Ireland.

The flying winger would score again in that corner on the stroke of half-time on Saturday. Ackermann said the early try boosted Combrinck’s confidence, which resulted in him producing a quality 80-minute performance.

“It was unlucky for Sylvian, but Ruan must love that corner (of Ellis Park). It was a special performance and that first try helped his momentum and gave him confidence.

“It helped that he played two (lower level) games but he was also able to tap into his Super Rugby experience from years past. He knows what is required, because he didn’t play at this level last week (for the Golden Lions).”

With Coetzee naming his 31-man Bok squad on Tuesday (at around 12pm) for the three Tests against France next month, one’s got to wonder whether Combrinck did enough in one 80-minute performance to crack the squad. He isn’t part of the 39-man training group currently being tested in Joburg, but his performance on Saturday could sway Coetzee.

The Star

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