After the injuries to Handre Pollard and then Patrick Lambie Springbok Coach Allister Coetzee was almost forced to pick Elton Jantjies. AC had other options in Morne Steyn and Johan Goosen but AC was handling a political timebomb and detonation was almost certain if he preferred either Steyn or Goosen. Both these players currently play for French clubs while Jantjies plays his rugby in South Africa. Jantjies had had an excellent Superrugby campaign with the Lions and was the in form flyhalf and to ignore him would have been too controversial.
Added to the facts that he was the in form SA flyhalf and that he plays his rugby in SA Jantjies is a player of colour. Sealing the deal and getting him called up to represent his country. After 5 and bit games in the Springbok top Allister Coetzee finally decided he needed to try another guy there and promptly dropped Jantjies right out of the squad. Much to the joy of the majority of SA rugby supporters.
I feel I’m in the minority. Elton Jantjies playing to a gameplan that suits him and supported by the players around him and trusted by the coaching staff is the way forward for SA rugby. That was the situation at the Lions but the Springbok set up is very different.
If Elton Jantjies misses a tackle, we never hear the end of it. Where as when Morne Steyn got run over by Samu Kerevi there was no mention of this. Last year Handre Pollard missed two tackles that both ended in tries for Australia and nothing got said. Elton Jantjies turns Adriaan Strauss’s intercept into a try by skills and good decision making afterwards no-one really mentions it but when he drops a ball from the kick-off everyone notices that. When Morne Steyn kicks the ball straight into touch when Rudy Paige passed it to him from about five metres in front of his 22m line then no-one says a word.
Is this because Jantjies has a dark skin and the majority of Bok fans are racist? Domkrag is so ingrained in the South African psyche that when you do it differently they don’t recognise it and disregard it immediately which makes change very difficult. There is also a part of me that believes that modern rugby would open the gates for far more dark skinned players to make a mark in the sport and in that way take away from the white man the last thing that he clings to that he feels was good about the good old days(*Apartheid)
Elton Jantjies would do far more for transformation than some black guy sitting out on the wing. Young players would look at a guy like Jantjies calling the shots in a predominantly white team and say “I want to be like that guy”. So a successful Elton Jantjies would threaten that feeling of comfort that all these people holding onto the old days have. That is why you never read an article written by a South African journaslist sticking up for Jantjies. The articles where they stick up for players are reserved for the Lambie’s , Pollards and even Steyn’s of this world.
When Allister Coetzee chose Morne Steyn at flyhalf against Australia, South Africa went from trying to play a gameplan that nobody seemed to grasp to playing a gameplan that the whole team seemed to understand. There was a lift in performance and players that had been disappointing all season suddenly stood up and delivered their best performances of the year players such as Eben Etsebeth, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira and Francois Louw suddenly looked like their old selves.
Yet even with these good performances South Africa were lucky to beat an out of sorts Wallaby team at altitude in South Africa. The past has proven over and over again that Domkrag rugby is not the way to go. Most South Africans were calling for more attacking rugby at the start of the season but now they are so desperate for any win that they are quite happy to cheer on Domkrag rugby and believe it to be the only way for South Africans to play.
How come the Lions were able to play a more modern game then? The answer is that the coach understands the modern game and directs players to keep to certain systems throughout the game. Forwards actually need to be in certain positions and constantly need to be thinking where they should be compared to Domkrag where forwards can mindlessly follow the ball and when they get there all they do is pick and go just like Etsebeth , Strauss and Mtawarira did against Australia.
The big difference between the modern game and Domkrag is that in the modern game the team sticks to a system and the flyhalf plays within that system whereas in Domkrag rugby the Flyhalf or the decision makers eg. Fourie du Preez at scrum-half dictates the game thus creating a system that the rest of the team fall into.
Elton Jantjies has come out of this stint with the Springboks not looking good at all but I feel he was stiched up by circumstance. He was selected by a Domkrag coach who never fully gave him his backing and played in a team of players that believe Domkrag to be the only gameplan and a public and media just waiting for him to mess up.
Is Elton Jantjies just going to disappear? I think not. He will go earn some money in Japan and will then return for the Lions next year where big things are going to be achieved by the Joburg team.