Columnists 27.7.2018 03:19 pm

Wanna solve the Elton riddle? Stop making him a Bok

Elton Jantjies. Photo: Gallo Images.

Elton Jantjies. Photo: Gallo Images.

Maybe the Lions pivot doesn’t quite have the extra oomph to be an international player. That hardly makes him a bad player though…

Elton Jantjies is an enigma.

There are no two ways about it.

Last weekend’s Super Rugby quarterfinal between the Lions and Jaguares was a perfect example of how mysterious he remains as pivot.

With the Argentinians leading 6-0 early on, the Lions repelled another promising attack and were awarded a relieving penalty.

But Jantjies missed his kick to touch.

I, for one, immediately gave big sigh.

“It’s going to be one of those afternoons…”

Yet just a few moments later, Jantjies launched a magnificent cross-kick into the hands of Ruan Combrinck for the Lions’ first try.

It was, frankly, sublime.

That moment of magic was the springboard for Jantjies to produce the type of performance that has made him South Africa’s most accomplished flyhalf in Super Rugby for the past three years.

More impressively was the fact that the 27-year-old could turn around his fortunes so quickly within the space of a few minutes.

Jantjies, for most of his career, is a polarised player.

When he’s on-song, he truly is on song.

And when he’s bad, he’s really bad.

Over the past few years Jantjies has managed to find the middle way to an extent but a turnaround like the one in Doornfontein last week is still the exception, not the rule.

Regardless, his pedigree at Super Rugby level is undeniable and I believe he’s been a superb servant for the Lions.

However, that pedigree will probably see him in the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship.

That’s where things become blurry.

Jantjies has played 26 Tests and more than 100 Super Rugby matches.

He’s experienced and over the past two years he’s had reasonably extended runs in the Green-and-Gold.

But he still frustrates at international level.

Sure, last month’s dead rubber at Newlands against England was played in tough conditions yet that’s still no excuse for a wayward showing.

Jantjies made basic errors and it’s, frankly, depressing that he couldn’t adapt even a little bit better given the aforementioned experience.

It makes me wonder whether we should remove some of the “enigma” out of “Elton” by acknowledging that he’s a really good Super Rugby player but that it’s time to look for another Bok understudy for Handre Pollard (Damian Willemse perhaps?).

Not quite being up to scratch at international level doesn’t make him any less of a good player.

Acknowledging limitations in many instances gives a player more freedom … and Jantjies likes that.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

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