Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Muir backs Jantjies for Test
Johannesburg - Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir has backed Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies to succeed immediately at Test level, despite a plea from Lions coach John Mitchell not to pick the youngster for the Boks’ Grand Slam tour.
Muir is also the Lions Director of coaching and was part of the team that brought Mitchell in to coach after Muir’s disasterous run in this year’s Super 14, losing all 13 matches in the competition .
Since Mitchell’s arrival, his backing of the young 20-year old flyhalf has been one of the key factors in the Lions revitalization process which saw them end fifth in the Absa Currie Cup.
However, Mitchell has publicly stated on more than one occasion that he believes that Jantjies should be allowed to develop on his own, without the pressure associated with test rugby at this stage, something that the Bok selectors and the coaching staff seem to ignore.
Mitchell’s track record in bringing young players to the fore speaks for itself, and the former All Black coach knows that at times certain players’ careers could be ruined by being thrown into the deep end.
However, Ruan Pienaar’s departure for Ireland, and Butch James’ injury has seem both Jantjies, and fellow 20 year old protegy Patrick Lambie selected for the preliminary Bok squad that assembled Friday in Johannesburg for a two day camp. Both youngsters are favourites to be added to the Bok squad for the Grand Slam tour next month. Muir disagreed with Mitchell’s sentiments in the Friday press conference, saying he believed Jantjies was good enough to play test rugby immediately.
“Obviously we must give huge credit to John for getting him (Jantjies) to where he is right now. But just being here at the moment doesn’t mean that he will be selected,” Muir told journalists.
“I certainly believe that he is good enough to be selected right now. He has shown glimpses of greatness and he is a player who is walking on his toes at the moment and is really full of confidence right now.”
With just 13 backline players left to choose from for the squad of 33, De Villiers initially sidestepped the question but eventually admitted he would have to look at overseas players for the tour. However, he reiterated that he only would do that if there were no options available locally.
“We won’t look outside the country when we have people in this country who can take up the task easily and represent our country. That is still our position,” De Villiers said. “If the selectors feel we do need people out there and they convince me about it, we will do it.
“The one thing that I still want to bring across is that we do not want to shut the door on people who still want to play for their country.”
However, outside the 37 players who reported for duty yesterday, and the injured trio of JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie and Wynand Olivier, it seems De Villiers will rather be recalling the likes of Frans Steyn and Pienaar before looking locally.
“If you read between the lines and see there are only 13 backline players left, we might have to use some players who we did not want to fly in for the training camp for two days.” The selectors will name the final squad after next weekend’s Currie Cup final.