Rugby Championship

Fairy tale rise for new Bok scrumhalf Jantjies

2019-07-19 06:46
Herschel Jantjies
Herschel Jantjies (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - The fairy tale rise of South African scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies continues at Ellis Park on Saturday when he makes his Test debut against Australia. 

It is the first of six games that also involve Argentina and New Zealand in a Rugby Championship cut to a single round because of the Rugby World Cup in Japan from September 20.

Jantjies, 23, began this year as understudy to veteran Jano Vermaak at Super Rugby outfit the Stormers in Cape Town. 

But when Vermaak was injured, Jantjies grabbed his opportunity and became the most impressive newcomer this year among the four South African Super Rugby outfits.

His form attracted the attention of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus and he now gets a chance to become one of three World Cup scrumhalves.

"When Herschel came up against some of the best scrumhalves in Super Rugby this season, he stood his ground," noted former South Africa loose forward Erasmus.

"He has been consistently good this year and slotted in really well when he joined our training camp.

"Having a number of his Stormers team-mates around him has also helped and now he gets an opportunity to show us what he can do at Test level."

Springbok backline coach and former sevens star Mzwandile Stick has hailed Jantjies for making a huge impact in his first Super Rugby season. 

"Life is all about opportunities. The boy was given a chance by the Stormers and he grabbed it with both hands.

"Herschel is very clinical in terms of basic skills. He has got a good pass and when the chance arises, he will snipe and score brilliant tries. 

"He is not a big guy, but he makes big tackles. That shows he is in a good mental space," said Stick.

Scrumhalf has been a problem position for some time with a lack of depth beneath first-choice Faf de Klerk from English Premiership club Sale Sharks. 

Bulls duo Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl started this year as the likeliest understudies to De Klerk.

But neither had an outstanding Super Rugby campaign and Jantjies and Northampton Saints' Cobus Reinach have risen above them in the pecking order. 

Reinach is on the bench for the Wallabies Test while De Klerk is rested ahead of a clash with world champions New Zealand in Wellington next weekend. 

Fullback Willie le Roux, flyhalf Handre Pollard and hooker Malcolm Marx are other probable World Cup first choices sitting out this Test and skipper and flanker Siya Kolisi is injured.

South Africa have changed 13 of the side beaten by Wales last November in their previous Test with centre Jesse Kriel and flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit the sole survivors.

Toulouse flanker Rynhardt Elstadt is the other newcomer in the starting XV and uncapped Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka is among the replacements.

Australia have chosen one new cap, No 8 Isi Naisarani, as they seek to improve a disastrous record of 16 losses from 17 Tests in Highveld cities Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Coach Michael Cheika has changed 10 of the run-on team beaten by England last November in their last outing, with a number of recalls after lengthy Test absences.

Scrumhalf Nic White plays his first international since 2015, prop James Slipper his first since 2016 and centres Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi team up for the first time since 2017.

"I am feeling a lot of belief and commitment from this squad," said Cheika ahead of a match at a venue where Australia were humiliated 53-8 when they last played there 11 years ago.

"They have all invested a lot of effort into our preparation and I know the 23 men selected will do us proud."

Kick-off is at 17:05 on Saturday.


South Africa

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 S'bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds


15 Tom Banks , 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper

Substitutes: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 Kurtley Beale


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