Cape Town - Elton Jantjies should be withdrawn from the Springbok No 10 jersey for Saturday’s Castle Rugby Championship Test against Australia at Loftus ... but remain very much part of their longer-term plans for an assault on the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
So says pundit and former Bok scrumhalf Werner Swanepoel, speaking on the SuperSport Afrikaans chat show SuperRugby on Monday.
The now 43-year-old “Smiley”, who earned 20 national caps between 1997 and 2000, said he believed the situation - the Boks are without a win from three Tests in a row - warranted a start for fit-again Pat Lambie against the Wallabies, but potentially with Jantjies making a contribution off the bench as the game progresses.
“We all agree that Elton was superb in this year’s Super Rugby, even it is also true that there is a big gap from it to international rugby,” said Swanepoel, whose second cap came as a substitute (for first-choice Joost van der Westhuizen) in the famous 61-22 Pretoria triumph over the Aussies in the 1997 season.
“But he is one of those guys who needs self-confidence and that has gone after (several) difficult games in a row … things seem to have got into his head a bit.
“I believe he should be allowed to catch his breath a bit on the bench (on Saturday) and make an entry when the defensive lines have loosened a bit.
“Don’t throw him away: he should still (be earmarked) for the next World Cup, but there just needs to be a bit of management of him at the moment.”
Swanepoel said he would be inclined to gamble with Lambie returning to the starting XV against the Wallabies, with his experience and calmness over-riding concerns about his lack of recent game-time.
Should Jantjies be withdrawn as starting flyhalf - a move fairly widely expected by coach Allister Coetzee on Thursday - there is no guarantee either that Lambie will earn a hasty promotion to the run-on side, or that Jantjies will, as Swanepoel suggests, earn a bench berth as his deputy.
The claims of seasoned points-machine Morne Steyn are also thought to be under strong consideration, whilst another school of thought believes Johan Goosen should be shifted to more familiar terrain for him from fullback.
Counting against the Lions pivot earning a place among the reserves, if he is dropped from the XV, is his lack of positional versatility, a phenomenon that is more of an asset for both Lambie and Goosen (they can cover all of flyhalf, centre and fullback if necessary).
Coetzee’s recent policy has also been to cram his bench with forwards in a 6-2 split, only increasing the onus on his backline replacements to be adaptable to various slots.
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