Johannesburg - The early season injuries to Springbok incumbents Handre Pollard and Pat
Lambie have opened the door for Emirates Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies
to establish himself as the leading flyhalf in South Africa.
According to the supersport.com website, few would argue that the form Jantjies was in last year was exceptional
and the fact he missed out on a Springbok place was lamentable, but now
with a new Springbok coach still to be appointed, the No 10 jersey is up
for grabs again ahead of a tough Vodacom Super Rugby season.
Pollard's torn cruciate knee ligaments is a devastating blow not only
for the Bulls but for the Springboks as well, and the nine months he is
expected to be out puts his return somewhere in October - if it is that
fast - meaning he won't only miss out on Super Rugby, but the incoming
test series against Ireland and the Castle Lager Rugby Championship as
Often these type of injuries take longer than expected and it can be
that Pollard doesn't play any form of rugby again this year. But even if
he does, his best case scenario is to return in the latter part of the
Currie Cup and then force his way back into the tour squad for the
The Sharks paid a heavy price for their win over Toulon with Lambie now
out for a confirmed 10 weeks, something Gary Gold's side could barely
afford at the start of the competition.
While they have Joe Pietersen to fill in for him, Lambie has been seen
as central to their hopes of a solid Super Rugby performance and the
worry was always that he would fall foul to injuries once again.
The injury means he is only likely to return halfway through the season,
where the Sharks will then hope he stays fit for the remainder of their
campaign and then the Bok outings against Ireland in June.
Jantjies in the meantime will have ample opportunity to present himself
as the obvious alternative in a Lions side that is enjoying its rugby,
and big things are expected from the side after their surprising
performance last season and the Currie Cup win they had in October.
With a dearth of alternatives - most other franchises have very young
candidates running out at flyhalf - the Lions pivot could easily find
himself as the main candidate to take the role forward for the Boks.
There have been suggestions in the past that Jantjies tends to fade in
tight games, but his form in the last year suggests the opposite and he
is a much more seasoned player nowdays. If his form is anywhere near the
past season, will certainly be knocking on the door.
Other than him locally, there aren't too many other candidates, with the
Bulls pinning their hopes on journeyman Francois Brummer and young
prospect Tiaan Schoeman, the Kings looking to former Bull Louis Fouche
or the Stormers putting their faith in the errant Kurt Coleman or young
Robert du Preez.
The Cheetahs seem to have settled on Sias Ebersohn as their starter,
ahead of Fred Zeilinga while an outside chance is the other Lions'
flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff.
Of course, the other option is to recall Bok points machine Morne Steyn,
who is overseas at Stade Francais, while Johan Goosen is still also an
option at Racing Metro.
But with Dan Carter's arrival at Racing, it seems Goosen is only being
used as a fullback at the moment, with little prospect of playing at 10
Both are experienced and deserve another look, but it will depend on the
mindset of the new Bok coach and how much he is allowed to lean on
overseas players as well.
Which all brings us back to Jantjies, who has a golden opportunity to
underline his claims as one of the best in the country, and has the
chance now, if he performs, to win his Bok jersey back.
Whoever the Bok coach will be, he will be hoping that there aren't more
injuries in the key position of 10, or his June debut as coach may well
be hampered even further.
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