Jury still out on hot and cold Jantjies

2016-06-27 10:58
Elton Jantjies (Gallo)

Cape Town - It has been a big couple of weeks for Elton Jantjies. 

The 25-year-old, the form South African flyhalf in Super Rugby this season, was given his Springbok chance after Pat Lambie was knocked out cold by CJ Stander in Cape Town in the first Ireland Test. 

He has played almost every minute of the series since then, and while the Boks did emerge as eventual series winners, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding Jantjies and his endeavor to make the No 10 jersey his own.

Sublime in Super Rugby in 2015, Jantjies was overlooked by Heyneke Meyer for the Springboks' Rugby World Cup squad last year in a decision that raised eyebrows. 

His only previous Springbok experience had come in the form of two Rugby Championship bench appearances in 2012. 

He would have to wait nearly four years for his next chance. 

Injury to Handre Pollard and a fresh start under Allister Coetzee meant that Jantjies could not be ignored for the Ireland series. 

Still, he would have to be content with a place on the bench for the Cape Town Test as Lambie took centre stage. 

But the Sharks pivot was ruled out of the series just 22 minutes into that opening Test, and Jantjies was given an opportunity to prove his worth to a South African rugby public that is largely divided when it comes to judging the playmaker's quality. 

Jantjies showed one moment of magic in the first Test when his inside pass released Lwazi Mvovo for a try in a losing cause, while he stepped up in the final 20 minutes of the second Test to help spark that dramatic Bok comeback. 

Jantjies' role in the third Test also saw him deliver one piece of sublime skill when his cross-chip put in JP Pietersen for the Boks' only try of the game. 

In all three performances, Jantjies showed how dangerous he can be on attack. 

He possesses the ability to create opportunities out of nothing and that is a serious attribute.

But despite showing those moments of brilliance, Jantjies still hasn't put together the complete performance for the Springboks.

His goal-kicking was erratic in Johannesburg while his missed tackle on Luke Marshall was soft and costly in Port Elizabeth. 

Jantjies' kicking out of hand has also been less than impressive at times and in Port Elizabeth the addition of Ruan Combrinck's big right boot was much-needed. 

Pollard is out for the year, but Lambie will be ready to go by the time the Rugby Championship starts in August. 

Lambie has been incredibly unlucky in a Springbok jersey, with the Stander-enforced concussion robbing him of his latest opportunity to stamp his authority on the flyhalf position.

Jantjies can change a game in a second, but Lambie is assured and consistently reliable. 

The Boks struggled, with Jantjies at the helm, to win the territorial battle against the Irish. 

That is surely an area where Lambie offers more - his intelligence and accuracy when kicking out of hand allowing the Boks to play in the right areas of the field. 

Uncertainty also hangs over Jantjies' defensive capabilities, and that is another area where Lambie outscores his team-mate. 

The 10/12 channel simply has to be strong defensively when the Boks take on the All Blacks later this year. 

After having seen Jantjies start back-to-back Tests, Lambie emerges as the favourite to start in the Rugby Championship.

Jantjies supporters will argue that the Boks won both of the matches that he started as they pulled the series back from what appeared to be certain defeat 20 minutes from time in Johannesburg. 

Has he really done enough wrong to warrant losing his place?

Jantjies is the type of player you just want to have on your side because you know what he is capable of. 

But at what cost? 

Fortunately for Coetzee, he doesn't have to make any decisions right away. 

Super Rugby still has three rounds of fixtures to go before playoffs, with the Lions almost certain to be a part of the knockouts while the Sharks are still battling their way through. 

This weekend has the potential to dish up a Jantjies v Lambie showdown as the Sharks travel to Johannesburg for a massive local derby. 

But there is still no word on Lambie's availability following his concussion. 

This flyhalf battle will become even more complicated when Pollard returns from injury. 

For now, both Lambie and Jantjies will be looking to make the most of their time on the field while Pollard is out. 

For Jantjies, his first two starts were bitter/sweet. 

He did enough to suggest that he can play well at this level, but probably didn't do enough to suggest that he can play consistently well at this level. 

He will have more opportunities to prove himself, and guiding the Lions to Super Rugby glory would be a good start.  

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...


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