Rugby Championship

Let Jantjies fly, but easy on the 'replace Faf' talk

2019-07-29 10:19
Herschel Jantjies (Getty)
Herschel Jantjies (Getty)

Cape Town - Herschel Jantjies is undoubtedly the Springbok success story of 2019 so far and his start to life on the international stage is simply sensational.

In just over 100 minutes of rugby, the 23-year-old has scored three tries and hardly put a foot wrong in Bok colours. 

He crossed the whitewash twice on debut against the Wallabies two weekends ago and then, in Wellington on Saturday, he climbed above Aaron Smith to pluck the ball out of the air and score a match-saving try against the All Blacks with the final play of the game. 

Handre Pollard knocked over the conversion to secure a 16-16 draw, and Jantjies was the hero once more. 

Now, with just two more Test matches to go before the World Cup squad is announced, Jantjies has almost certainly booked his ticket to Japan 2019 and there are even some calling for him to be elevated ahead of Faf de Klerk into a starting role against the All Blacks in Yokohama on September 21. 

As exciting as Jantjies has been and as bright as his future surely is, in De Klerk the Boks have a pedigreed, experienced general who has been central to the World Cup build-up.

De Klerk was forced off the park on Saturday early in the second half with a head knock, opening the door for Jantjies to enter the fray. 

That, surely, is the way the Boks need to go at the World Cup. 

De Klerk himself is an x-factor player with an ability to change games individually, he has 22 Test caps to his name already and he has thrived at Sale Sharks in England for three straight seasons now.

He has also been one of the form Boks throughout the Rassie Erasmus era and fans would do well to remember that. 

Jantjies, meanwhile, has had only one full Super Rugby season with the Stormers, which came this year when he got his chance through injury to Jano Vermaak. 

He was easily the most impressive South African scrumhalf in Super Rugby 2019 and his Bok call-up was just reward for that.

At a Western Province press conference on Thursday, coach John Dobson painted a picture of just how crazy Jantjies' rise to the top has been. 

Just nine months ago, Jantjies started the Currie Cup final against the Sharks because of another injury to Vermaak and, at the time, Dobson felt that stage was too big for him. 

A few years before that, Dobson remembers being scared to bring Jantjies onto the field in a Vodacom Cup game in Potchefstroom because of the possibility of him getting hurt.

That will feel like forever ago now.

Jantjies' distribution is crisp and precise, his box kicking is accurate, and he clearly has an ability to provide moments of individual brilliance in big situations. 

Those are all the right ingredients, and the Boks can move forward into the next few weeks with one position ticked off for the World Cup. 

De Klerk and Jantjies are likely to be joined by another experienced campaigner, Cobus Reinach, in the World Cup squad and that trio looks to provide the perfect balance. 

In De Klerk and Reinach, the Boks have two scrumhalves who have built up reputations as two of the best in the world through their form in the English Premiership over the past few seasons. 

In Jantjies, they have a man who is red hot. 

Erasmus said after Saturday's draw that it was important not to burden Jantjies with too much technical instruction at this formative stage of his career. 

While he is flying, let him fly. The improvement and development, Erasmus said, would happen naturally. 

That is absolutely the right approach. 

With youth and inexperience sometimes comes a fearlessness that Jantjies is presenting in abundance right now, and that should be encouraged. 

Playing Jantjies off the bench gives him full license to express himself without the constraints that might come with starting the match and having to employ an overly tactical approach. 

Then, if things are not going well and the Boks need to spark a change in momentum, Jantjies has shown that he is more than capable of coming on early and doing just that.

Just a few short months ago, the Bok scrumhalf conversation was one without an end in sight with the likes of Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl and Louis Schreuder all fighting it out for a place in Japan. 

Now, thanks largely to Jantjies' storming arrival, the Boks can rest easy in that position knowing that they have serious depth there. 

With every individual performance, this Bok World Cup squad is picking itself, and Jantjies has given his senior colleagues the perfect illustration of what making the most of an opportunity should look like. 

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...

 

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