Jantjies’ best yet signals greater things to come

Date published: August 1 2016

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Elton Jantjies surpassed himself with his best ever performance for the Lions in their semi-final win over the Highlanders, and at a time when his side needed it most.

Now as a result, the expectations of just how good a fly-half Jantjies can become have risen. Billed for so long as a confidence player, his reputation might be about to change.

We relentlessly praise and chastise number tens because unlike your industrious tight five forward burying himself away in rucks away from our sight, there’s no escape for a top fly-half. Success, more often than not, hinges on them. Produce that frequently and the accolades follow.

And Jantjies has felt the brunt of that glare during his formative years trying to breakthrough at Super Rugby and Test level.

He has battled against doubters throughout his entire career, be it lazy criticisms based around his size at 176cm and 88lkg or largely off the back of his disappointing time with the Stormers back in 2013, when the Lions were relegated out of Super Rugby and he headed to Cape Town on loan.

Often forgotten when recalling that chapter of his career is the sudden loss of his father Thomas at the age of just 46, only weeks before Jantjies was set to make his debut. The pair were close, with Jantjies describing his father as a mentor.

A bright start to life with the Stormers never followed, with the stint widely viewed as a failure as Jantjies’ attacking instincts never slotted in with the Stormers’ defensive, goalkicking jigsaw.

It’s then taken almost two years for Jantjies to see off the threat of Marnitz Boshoff for the Lions number ten shirt.

Since he made it his own however Jantjies’ confidence has soared, with the results on full display in a breakthrough 2016 season, topped by his display last weekend.

The variety of his kicking game and break before Courtnal Skosan’s try will leap out of the highlight reel but there was much more to it; timing for his try, grit by making ten tackles when the Highlanders sought to barrel through him.

Of course the Super Rugby final will be a massive moment for Jantjies but there’s more at play here, the chance to shed the tag of ‘confidence player’ and to edge a step closer to arguably the best compliment in sport – ‘consistently good’. That latter appraisal has always seperated the game’s greatest from the merely talented, especially on the big stage.

Jantjies never quite transferred his blistering Super Rugby form to the Test series against Ireland despite ample minutes on the field, but the response since then has been quite special, capped off by his second-half unravelling of the Highlanders.

The semi-final marked a new high, by which Jantjies will be forever judged for the rest of his career. How close can he come again to matching that masterclass.

It takes only a few matches for a fly-half to be labelled as one who relies on confidence, and far longer to be renowned for regular excellence.

Perhaps after the final Jantjies will have progressed further down the other path. With his outstanding display against the Highlanders, he’s already taken a large leap.

by Ben Coles

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