Elton Jantjies purred in the Springboks’ three-Test series win against the French, and in the next month the Lions playmaker must own any talk about the national No 10 jersey.
Just like the quarterback in US football and the striker in soccer (or football to others), the flyhalf is rugby union’s most talked about position.
The flyhalf, we know, benefits from those on his outside and few flyhalves can consistently be a presence without a dominant pack of forwards, but there isn’t a position that gets as much debate.
My personal favourite to play for the Boks at flyhalf was Handre Pollard. Injury ended that. Next on the cab rank was Curwin Bosch. Again, this is a personal choice. Bosch played for the SA under 20 side and was not available to play against France.
Pat Lambie was an option, but not my preferred starting option. Another concussion ended Lambie’s season. Here’s to a full recovery for a wonderful rugby player and an even more enjoyable person.
I viewed him as a fantastic Currie Cup player and an equally influential presence in Super Rugby. A Test player?
On the evidence of a handful of Tests, in a period of five years between his Test debut and 2016, I thought emphatically not.
Jantjies, in my view, didn’t have it.
Alternatively, no coach nationally had created an environment for him to show he had it.
That he was the form South African flyhalf in Super Rugby was not disputed but I always viewed Jantjies as one of those players who was too good for the second team but never good enough for the first team.
He had always excelled for the Lions but was an imitation of that player during his one season at the Stormers when he stuck out like a Lion in a Stormers jersey.
Allister Coetzee was then the Stormers coach. Jantjies missed a few penalty kicks in his Stormers debut and that was it in the crass world of Western Cape rugby. Joe Petersen assumed the kicking duties and Jantjies’s season was reduced to that of catch and pass.
He returned to the Lions the next year and flourished because of the guidance and trust of the coaching staff.
Jantjies’s formative professional career was influenced by Kiwis John Mitchell and Carlos Spencer. Jantjies played like a young Spencer, if not quite as gifted, but certainly with more consistently and with greater accuracy when kicking at goal.
"Trust him," pleaded Lions coach Johan Ackermann "Give him responsibility and let him be the general." Ackermann reminded the Jantjies doubters that the player could only be as good as his environment and only be accountable if asked to lead.
Coetzee in 2016 didn’t show this trust and faith in Jantjies and the results were awful for coach and player.
In 2017, in three Tests against France, it was so different and the results were remarkably different as well.
Coetzee trusted Jantjies with selection and more importantly selected Ross Cronje and Warren Whiteley on his inside to add to the potential of any success.
Jantjies flourished against France.
His 52 points, which included a debut Test try, came with the accuracy in excess of 80 percent and he was as assured defensively as he was ambitious on attack.
Bosch, by contrast, was good without being exceptional at the under-20 World Championship, Lambie was ruled out for the season and Pollard’s injury curse continued.
Is Jantjies the best No 10 in South Africa? The answer has to be yes based on performance against the French.
Jantjies is now firmly the player in possession of the prized No 10 jersey.
He deserves it and, fitness permitting, he has to be the one given the jersey for the Rugby Championship.
Jantjies, in many respects, has finally graduated from potential Test player to Test player, and in the next month his presence and leadership will influence the Lions Super Rugby challenge.
The Lions will host a quarter-final but their title aspirations will be determined on finishing first overall and hosting every play-off match. If they have to travel to New Zealand for a final, they have to defy history to be successful.
This weekend will be a breeze against the Sunwolves and the Lions will win easily. The big match in South Africa will be in Durban. Expect the Sharks to win and, if you scream black, white and dynamite, demand the Sharks win if they are to offer any challenge in the play-offs.
The Stormers should win against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and I believe they will win, but it won’t be a repeat of their first round clash when the Stormers won 50-10.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The
views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do
not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
Previous Mark Keohane columns on Sport24:
Serfontein, Mostert the Bok standouts
Boks must extend Brendan 'Mr Fixit' Venter's role
Coetzee's Lions-laden Bok side can't lose!
Expect a different looking Bok starting XV!
Fear not, Boks will whitewash France 3-0!
Hey Allister, load the Boks with Lions!
The RWC 2019 gods have smiled on the Boks!
Unleash Curwin Bosch on the French!
YES, an overseas-based SA team would beat the Boks, but...
The next Springbok skipper has to be...
Super Rugby cull good for SA rugby
Clap, clap ... Venter's appointment should be applauded
South African rugby NEEDS to host RWC 2023
Why SA can't have 6 Super Rugby teams
Super 12 glory is now Super 18 gory
No winner is SARU's half-cocked overseas policy
Keeping Coetzee sadly no April Fools' joke
Mediocrity must fall!
Overseas based SA players are no traitors!
Sick Boks need more than a new doctorJoost earned more than a minute's silence