Rugby

Flyhalf injuries open door for Elton

2016-02-10 09:00
Elton Jantjies (Gallo Images)

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 well.

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 end-of-year tour.

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 this season.

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.

Read the story on SuperSport.com

Read more on:    lions  |  elton jantjies  |  rugby
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