Jantjies rested and hungry for action
Brendan Nel - SuperSport.com
Johannesburg - Elton Jantjies may have been a bit of a surprise as the Lions’ player of the year on Saturday, but there is no doubt he is living every day as if it could be his last on a rugby field.
Jantjies beat out the likes of Springboks Malcolm Marx and Aphiwe Dyantyi to be named player of the year, no mean feat given the level of competition he had for the award, and is now looking forward to leading the Lions into battle in this year’s Super Rugby tournament.
For the first time in years he spent a pre-season with his team-mates, sweating away after turning down the chance to play in Japan again.
And it is all in the hope of getting some good form to propel him into the Bok squad for this year’s Rugby World Cup.
“It was fun. It was tough but obviously I enjoyed the December holiday with my family and had a four week break. I spent some time with my boys, and then pre-season. It helped me a lot because I’ve been playing non-stop,” Jantjies said.
“It was all part of the plan, especially as I spoke to my agent, and it is all for me, for the World Cup, making sure I put my body in the best position to be in form for the Lions and hopefully that will mean I’m in the World Cup squad.”
And focus is a big thing for Jantjies, especially as he is working extra hard to make sure he helps his team break their Super Rugby drought, and in the process, gives himself a chance for Bok glory.
“I enjoyed the game, and I’ve got six or seven more years left. Every morning when I wake up and come to training, I want to have the best day that I can have. Especially when you get to the time - I’m not old yet – but anything can happen on any given day. I just am enjoying the game, and playing at the union. It’s a great culture to be part of and every single morning I can’t wait to get to training.”
Jantjies is a player that some love to criticise, especially when things don’t go right on the field, but he shrugs off the critics, knowing that the team environment is all that counts.
“I respect people’s opinions – I respect the media, and the opinions of others and the opinions of fans, but to me this isn’t an individual sport, it is a team sport. Whether we get the result or not, it is people’s opinions – it’s all about the team.”
Still the surprise on his face was palpable on Saturday, and he didn’t expect to win.
“It was unexpected, it's something that is very special for me, especially with the union I grew up with, but it has been a long road and a very exciting one. It is not the end, I re-signed with the Lions last year so it is amazing to be in this position. But this award goes to my team, my boys, my everyone – the coaches and management.
“To be honest I didn’t think of it, I didn’t know I’m getting an award, because that is how I am – I’m not about the individual, and it is all about the team, so I was shocked when they called me. It is still special especially at the union I love, the union I started at, it really means a lot to me.”
And the selfless attitude will be what the Lions need as they head into Super Rugby, hoping that Jantjies can propel them forward, so much so that after three straight Super Rugby finals, they finally go one better this year.
Read this story on SuperSport.com