Jacques Nienaber: Elton Jantjies omission is to protect his mental health

Dylan Coetzee

Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber revealed that he did not select Elton Jantjies for the Test against Argentina as it would put too much pressure on his mental health.

Jantjies has been in hot water again this year after allegations of an affair with team dietitian Zeenat Simjee were made by a South African newspaper before the Buenos Aires Test, prompting the Springbok management team to send the duo home to attend to the issue.

Crisis at fly-half

The scandal comes at a bad time for Nienaber, who is struggling for depth at fly-half after Handre Pollard was ruled out for the rest of the Test season with injury and stand-in Damian Willemse sidelined with a concussion for the crucial final round clash against Argentina in Durban on Saturday.

The situation has forced the coach to turn to veteran Frans Steyn who has not started a Test at fly-half since 2008.

Nienaber insists he would have liked to field Jantjies on Saturday but believes it would have been too much strain for the playmaker.

“It would have been nice to pick Elton, but mental health is a big thing,” said Nienaber.

“There would have been too much external pressure on him and from a perspective of humanity, it would have been unfair to bring him back.

“Elton would have been under too much pressure, and with us the human side comes first.”

Frustrating reports

The Jantjies saga was not the only disruption in the Springbok camp in the build-up to the Buenos Aires Test, as reports in South Africa, published only hours before the clash, claimed that some players had tested positive for cocaine.

Nienaber says he is open to rugby pressure but was frustrated by the report that he believes is false.

“Look the rugby pressure is nice, that is what you want. But the other pressure is disappointing because we know the truth,” he said.

“We put out a statement with the truth in it. If there is stuff we can comment on about off-the-field things, we will do so. We have nothing to hide.

“But the (white) noise is almost irritating. One never wants that type of pressure on your team because it has nothing to do with rugby, but we like the rugby pressure, we like the fact that this Saturday is a final and all four teams are in it to win it.”

The Springboks have a chance to claim the Rugby Championship title in the final round as they sit level on points with New Zealand, who sit at the top of the table with a superior points difference.

It is all to play for in the most exciting Rugby Championship since its inauguration in 2012.

READ MORE: Springboks: Veteran Frans Steyn starts at 10 against Argentina in crunch final-round clash