His place-kicking was poor and he wasn’t as commanding in general play as the Ellis Park faithful have grown accustomed to. In fact, him being substituted in the 62nd minute of a knockout game without a recognised flyhalf to replace him, tells a story in itself. And he will be the first to admit he was well below par.
But the criticism that has followed has been harsh and mostly unreasonable. Online forums have been flooded with comments like “he has showed he has no bigmatch temperament”.
No big-match temperament? I suppose in the world these cowboys live in, the Currie Cup final in 2011, in which Jantjies scored 24 points against the Sharks to be named Man-of-the-Match, was not a big match. Also did I not realise that the 2016 Super Rugby semifinal against the Highlanders was not a big match. Because if it was, maybe his personal contribution of 23 points that won him another Man-of-the-Match accolade would have made fans hesitate to post silly comments.
Not too mention last year’s quarterfinal, during which he converted four of the Lions’ five tries and added two penalty goals and a drop goal. Jantjies has been in sublime form all season. His has commanded the Lions with aplomb and his place-kicking has been superb, like his position on top of the individual scorers’ list will indicate.
He carried that form with him through to the Springboks where he finally showed his class on the international stage against France last month. I also didn’t quite realise that the amount of pressure the Boks were under made the three Tests against the French lesser affairs.
But people’s memories are short and they’ll remember what they want to and conveniently forget what they want to. In the aftermath of one bad performance, fans will open up old wounds and badmouth Jantjies for what has happened somewhere in the past. Something bad of course. People will remind you how poor he was during his time at the Stormers when the Lions were in Super Rugby exile in 2013.
Without mentioning the possible role his father’s death during his time in Cape Town could have played in his ill-fated southern adventure. His doubters will also throw into the mix how poor he was in last year’s Super Rugby final against the Hurricanes in Wellington and how he didn’t shape for the Boks in 2016. But the argument won’t include the whole Lions team being outplayed in that final or how poor all the rest of his Bok colleagues were in 2016.
The naysayers from his last mishap heavily rely on the fact that he missed four kicks at goal, without mentioning that his general play wasn’t actually all that bad. Well, not great according to his own high standards, but definitely not atrocious by any means.
If there is one thing he doesn’t deserve, it’s this unfounded hogwash directed at him – especially after only one bad match. By now he should be more respected than the social media bunkum served up this week. At least against the Hurricanes Jantjies will have the chance to set the record straight and make his doubters eat humble pie.
I’ll happily keep the plates warm.