JOHANNESBURG – There is only one Springbok from the tiny Cape Winelands town of Kylemore, and that honour belongs to Herschel Jantjies.
Jantjies has surprised many with his spectacular rise from relative unknown a few months ago to a member of the Boks’ Rugby World Cup squad. His ascent has provided the youngsters of Kylemore and other areas with a glimmer of hope that they can rise above their circumstances.
There was plenty of excitement and commotion at the Jantjies home in Kylemore on Sunday. The community gathered to give their local hero a send-off on the eve of the Rugby World Cup squad announcement.
“There is only one Springbok from Kylemore, and that is me, it is not a big place, it is a very small community,” said Jantjies, whose name was the first to be read out on Monday. “There were a lot of people at my house yesterday (Sunday) before I came to Joburg.
“The people are very excited down in Kylemore, not a lot of people knew I was home, we had a family lunch at my house. Then some of the neighbourhood people came and asked for pictures and wish me good luck.”
Jantjies took to international rugby like a duck to water with the pressure of starting on his Bok debut against Australia in the Rugby Championship barely visible.
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He followed that up with a try against the All Blacks, highlighting his big-match temperament. So when did he realise he was on the cusp of making the Rugby World Cup squad?
“Probably the first time I got invited to the Springbok camp, everything just started from there, this snowball effect,” Jantjies said. “It was a surprise to me (his first call-up to the Bok camp)!”
Jantjies firmly believes his story of perseverance and hard work should inspire other youngsters who are faced with what may seem like an impossible future. “I’m not saying it is going to be easy, I’ve never had it easy,” he said.
“I aspire to be one of those guys who gets to play 110 games or more for the Springboks. I don’t want to be a guy that plays the World Cup and is then just gone.
I want to make myself proud, make my parents proud and the people of Kylemore and South Africa proud.”
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