Johannesburg – If there has to be a key figure on the field in the Springboks’ resurgence this year, Elton Jantjies’ name will be one of the first to be mentioned.
According to the SuperSport website, the pivot has found favour in the renewed energy and purpose in the Springbok set-up and despite struggling to find his place in the past and never looking like the self-assured player fans have come to know when playing for the Emirates Lions, Jantjies has turned back-to-back performances that are expected from an international flyhalf.
His game management has been superb, and his confidence on the back of a pack that backed itself against their heavier French counterparts has been great to see, making Jantjies not only the first choice flyhalf, but likely to stay in the saddle for some time to come if he continues this way.
Handre Pollard’s return to action has been delayed a bit, while Pat Lambie still finds himself in the wilderness following repeated concussions, leaving the door open for Jantjies to find his rhythm in the Green and Gold, settle and take the game forward the way the Boks have planned.
Jantjies circa 2017 has matured immensely in the national set-up and the renewed culture means he has found a role for himself that he enjoys. But more than that, he has found a way of upping his kicking percentages to a level that a Springbok flyhalf should aspire to.
In the two tests thus far, he has been almost perfect – one long range shot falling short after 11 perfect kicks – and it has given both himself and his teammates a lot of confidence.
Jantjies now looks more to ensure he is doing things right for the team, rather than chasing individual glory.
“I don’t focus on that (my form), for me it is all process-management driven and making sure that my game as a flyhalf and in the team is on par. Just making sure that I do my job well, trying to inspire my teammates and making sure I make the right decisions at the right time. That is the key for me,” he explains.
His late father Thomas still plays a massive role in his life, and Jantjies admits it has been following the mantra laid down by him and a determination to succeed that has made the difference.
“I spent a lot of time focusing on my technique, my attitude. You get comfortable when you come well-prepared, sticking to your routine and just trusting your body, trust your technique and trust what you go through. I can only give credit to people who have had an impact on my kicking style, obviously my father played a big role in that and I’m still doing what he told me. I’m working hard on my technique and just let the body flow.”
Jantjies believes the change of attacking coach to Franco Smith has also played a role, and the positivity within the team is something that is also making the difference.
“Coach Franco has done a great job, started at the end of year tour last year in the manner that we want to play and how rugby is going. In the manner where we want to be as a Bok team, collectively on attack. The boys are really enjoying the way we want to play, it is all about decision-making and getting freedom, but with that comes responsibility. Like I said last week the locks, the nine and 10 and then 15 as well need to make the right decisions at the right time, but we have a good leader in Warren Whiteley and obviously our senior group as well. We’re working well with the management so everything is looking good so far.”
Either way, Jantjies’ form is a key element in the Springbok resurgence. By embracing the process his father laid out for him and being more determined, he has become more mature, and more focused, growing in confidence in a position he has made his own.
If Jantjies can continue in this vein, he won’t only have made his father proud, but the entire country as well.