There’s a tide of opinion that the exciting Herschel Jantjies is being thrown in at the deep end as starting scrumhalf against the Wallabies at Ellis Park on Saturday.
While the 23-year-old Stormers star will undoubtedly be put under pressure, the way he handled a prank at Friday’s team photo session might be an indication that he’ll be more than fine.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) July 19, 2019
“We always have this running joke whenever a newbie comes into the national squad,” said Springbok stand-in skipper Eben Etzebeth.
“We told Herschel that he needs to come sit in front next to me. That’s actually Beast’s (Mtawarira) place (the front row is usually reserved for senior players). So when Beast arrived, it made it awkward for him. I think he’s learnt his lesson!”
Pranks aside, Etzebeth joined a chorus of teammates and coaches who praised Jantjies for what has been a rapid rise after a fine Super Rugby campaign.
“I spoke to him a few weeks back and asked him where he was this time last year,” he said.
“He told me he was in the Currie Cup mix, starting a game on the bench for Province! Now he can’t believe he’s starting a Test. As a Stormers teammate, I’ve seen him grow this year. To be honest, at first I didn’t really know who he was and what he’s capable of.
“But he’s proved us all wrong. He’s a great scrumhalf and I really enjoy him a lot off the field as well.”
Closer to home, at least in a positional sense, Etzebeth is also excited to be reunited with lock partner Lood de Jager.
The two towering second rowers haven’t played much as a combination in recent years due to their respective injuries, but their partnership was one of the highlights of 2015’s World Cup.
“I rate Lood very highly, I think he’s an exceptional player,” said Etzebeth.
“He was Player-of-the-Year that season. I know whenever he pulls a Bok jersey over his head, he gives his best. I’m really excited to play with him. I’ve played a few Tests with him, he’s never disappointed me.”