Elton Jantjies was simply exceptional in steering the Springboks to victory over the All Blacks in the final Rugby Championship match of the season. His temperament and class in the biggest of moments deserves such celebration from South Africa, writes Oliver Keohane.
Francois Steyn was phenomenal at fullback, and his straight swap for Willie Le Roux at half time was absolutely necessary to South Africa having any chance of winning against the All Blacks. While there will be much celebration of the Frans Steyn enigma, and his ability after all these years to still have such impact, I implore you, South African rugby public, to look no further in your congratulations than Elton Jantjies.
On a day where injury forced Sbu Nkosi off his wing and onto the sidelines, and a terrible performance from Willie Le Roux demanded an early sub for Frans Steyn, Elton Jantjies had no choice but to perform. And he did.
Playing at flyhalf, with Handre Pollard on his outside, Jantjies’ presence in the final 20 minutes of the Test match was enormous. Aside from ultimate composure in controlling the best balance of kicking and running that we have seen yet from this Springbok side, Jantjies’ contributions in moments read as follows: try assist, drop goal, match winning penalty.
In the context of a game that ended 31-29 to the Boks, and on 79 minutes was 29-28 to the All Blacks, these contributions speak for themselves.
This is an Elton Jantjies who has been given very little game time this Rugby Championship, and this year as a whole. This is an Elton Jantjies who has consistently been lambasted for a lack of BMT. This is an Elton Jantjies who has been criticized even after playing well.
This is an Elton Jantjies who off the back of a monumental Springbok effort, guided his team to victory over an All Black side unbeaten in ten games. And this is all that matters in the moment.
There needs to be an acknowledgment of what it takes mentally to come on and control the last 20 minutes of the game as Jantjies did, and there needs to be recognition of the way in which he has flipped the narrative of unreliability that has largely characterized his Springbok career. When it mattered, Jantjies was magnificent.
Equally magnificent was this Springbok result, after 18 weeks in a bio-bubble, essentially on tour.
Celebrate the moment, celebrate the Springboks and acknowledge the brilliance of this team, steered to victory by Elton Jantjies, with the help of veteran Frans Steyn, with Lukhanyo Am on the wing, Siya Kolisi injured, Pieter-Steph Du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe out.
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