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Ken Borland

Lions victory due in no small part to Jantjies masterclass 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken


The Lions roared into the SuperRugby final with a 42-30 victory over the Highlanders at Ellis Park on Saturday due in no small part to a masterclass in flyhalf play by Elton Jantjies.

Jantjies was his usual brilliant self with ball in hand, scoring one try and setting up another for wing Courtnall Skosan with a dazzling blindside break from his own 22, while he was once again reliable kicking for poles, nailing four conversions and three penalties from his eight shots at goal. He was also strong defensively, holding his channel well and it was his hit in midfield in the 24th minute that provided the loose ball for centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg to score and increase the Lions’ lead to 17-3.

But it was his tactical kicking that was at another level in Saturday’s semifinal as the Lions consistently cleared any danger in their own 22, nullifying the strong kicking game of the Highlanders and driving them back in the territory battle, as well as turning their defensive line around very well.

Jantjies said it was due to getting the decision-making right on the day.

“It’s a privilege to play with this group of players and it just came down to making the right decisions. You look to create opportunities and you hope the gap opens up, otherwise you kick. I just play what is in front of me,” Jantjies said. “I just enjoyed it out there, we worked hard at playing at huge intensity and to go for the whole 80 minutes, which we needed to do.”

Coach Johan Ackermann was more forthcoming in praising his flyhalf general.

“It was very important that we did well at the exits, as shown by the one time we let it slip and the Highlanders scored. In general we were accurate at our exits, and decision-making goes hand-in-hand with that. The kicking and passing games were both good tonight, and now’s the right time for players like Elton to be in really good form,” Ackermann said.

Jantjies had some bad defensive misses when playing for the Springboks against Ireland in the June internationals to raise some question marks over that area of his game, but the 25-year-old was excellent in defence on Saturday and put it down to hard work during the week.

“I’ve had a few challenges, but this week I did a lot of one-on-one tackling work, I focused on that,” Jantjies said.

The Lions will now fly to Wellington on Sunday night, arriving midnight on Monday, and one of the features of the final will be the battle of the flyhalves between Hurricanes star Beauden Barrett and Jantjies, probably the two most in-form number 10s in the world right now.

But Jantjies was not going to be drawn on that match-up.

“I don’t have individual battles, it’s all about the team and just making sure I do my job for the team. The Hurricanes and Beauden Barrett are playing good rugby, and obviously they’re one-up on us after giving us 50 points at Ellis Park a few months ago. But we learnt a lot from our last game against them and we played some good stuff tonight. But we will have to reassess again on Monday,” Jantjies said.

Ackermann said he was content going to Wellington for a chance to put the cherry on top of what has already been a historic season for the Lions – their best ever in SuperRugby.

“Three years ago this week we were playing promotion/relegation and now this week we’ve made the final, which is really stunning. In finals, I believe everyone has a chance, they’re 50/50. Yes, we have to travel, but we won three out of four games last year and two out of three this year on the road, so this team loves to be together and to travel.

“It’s a once-off game and, as the Highlanders reminded us when they came into our changeroom after the game, they won there in Wellington last year. The pressure is on the Hurricanes, it’s a home game for them,” Ackermann said.

Jantjies able replacement for Lambie & Pollard – Gold 0

Posted on April 14, 2016 by Ken


Sharks coach Gary Gold believes that the Springboks have a ready-made replacement in Elton Jantjies for the injured flyhalf duo of Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard following his pivotal role in the Lions’ convincing 24-9 victory in their SuperRugby match in Durban at the weekend.

“Sometimes we mustn’t be afraid to say that we lost to a better team. The Lions defended very well, they kept us out despite wave after wave of attack and I thought Elton Jantjies was outstanding, he controlled the game very well.

“Elton is more than deserving of the Springbok flyhalf position. Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard are both out, which is not great for South African rugby, but there’s no way Elton would let you down. He’s cool, calm and composed and kicks his goals well. I think he’s outstanding,” Gold said.

With the Sharks being tryless, questions were once again asked about the attacking ambition of the team, but Gold said his side have played with intent.

“The game plan is okay, but we must just execute better. The guys came out and showed intent and I was proud of that. If we had taken that opportunity in the first five minutes, after a really good wave of attack, then who knows what might have happened?

“Sometimes we were attacking from the wrong areas and the penalty count against us was very high, which makes it very difficult. We looked quite good through the phases, especially off the lineout, but we were not able to launch off the scrum, where the Lions kept getting the ascendancy. The back three are getting enough ball, but whether it’s in the right areas is another story and we don’t do enough with it,” Gold said.

The director of rugby confirmed that flank Marcell Coetzee, who has been in brilliant form, has been ruled out of their tour to New Zealand due to a serious knee injury suffered against the Lions.

“We have certainly been written off before the tour, so it will be a great test of character. The guys will have to man up and take on the challenge, but it will be a fun challenge. We have got to right the wrongs of the last few weeks, but there have been many weeks of rights before that,” Gold said.

Jean de Villiers Q&A 0

Posted on October 10, 2012 by Ken


KB: There’s been a lot of talk about the Springbok backline and a lack of spark. Do you think changes are necessary and will Elton Jantjies and Jaco Taute make a difference?

JdV: The guys who’ve been added will definitely bring some youthful enthusiasm. Whenever someone is called up for the first time, they always bring some good energy with them, so it’s a great thing to have some new faces. If they get the opportunity to play, then I’m sure they’ll cherish it. Whenever there’s competition, it’s healthy and it brings the best out of the other players. Especially Jaco Taute, he can play centre or fullback, so he brings a lot of utility, he’s a quality player and I’m sure he’s good enough for Test rugby.

KB: You’ve formed a new partnership this year with Francois Steyn, how is it going? And are you happy at number 13 rather than your usual inside centre position?
JdV: Frans is such an unbelievably talented player and I believe the combination can still grow a lot. We’ve had sparks of brilliance, but I reckon we’re still only at 50-60% of our potential. I’m very happy at 13, there’s a bit more space and width out there and I think it will extend my career as there’s not as much traffic out there.

KB: How has Francois Steyn changed since his time in France with Racing Metro?
JdV: Without doubt he has matured a helluva lot and it definitely did him well. He’s such a talented guy and he’s already achieved so much at the age of 25. He made his Springbok debut aged 19, he won the World Cup at 20 and he already has more than 50 caps. He can still improve so much, but he clearly learnt a lot in France, you can see how he’s matured in his play and off the field. He’s now got much more of a decision-making and leadership role in the Springboks and he’s showing that on the field as well.

KB: The inexperienced pack surprised everyone by dominating the All Blacks in Dunedin. How happy were you after that performance?
JdV: I wasn’t surprised because the side selected had individuals who are very talented, they’re the best in their position and of course they’re going to add value. They showed that they are good enough there and hopefully we can build on that. You only get experience by playing.

KB: There was speculation that Bakkies Botha would be called up from Toulon. How close was he to selection and do you believe he has a role to play for the Springboks going forward?
JdV: I’m not involved with selection, although the coach will maybe consult with me from time to time, so I don’t know how close Bakkies was to selection. The situation is that we always see what’s available in South Africa first. Eben Etzebeth has come through and Flip van der Merwe showed against New Zealand that it’s time for him to stake a claim as well. He has all the talent and there’s Springbok blood flowing through him [His father Flippie was a 6ft5 prop who played six Tests between 1981 and 1989]. If those guys are injured and Bakkies is available, then I’m sure he’d be considered.

KB: Is the squad feeling the pressure of criticism from outside and is there a sense that you have to win these last two Rugby Championship Tests at home?
JdV: Pressure will always be there. I put pressure on myself to perform and as a team we put pressure on ourselves because we want to win every game we’re in the Springbok jersey. But the fact is it is a rebuilding year, we’ve basically lost a whole team with Gurthro Steenkamp, Bismarck du Plessis, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie and JP Pietersen all unavailable. That’s a massive bunch of experience and we’ve lost it so quickly. That puts our results into perspective, although we need to learn from our mistakes. But we do feel it’s vital to win our next two games and we’re looking forward to the challenge.

KB: How does it feel to be criticised by former coaches and players that were close to the team, for instance Peter de Villiers saying there wasn’t enough transformation in the squad?
JdV: I’d rather not comment on previous coaches’ and players’ comments. Our focus is on working towards a goal and we’re sticking to it. It’s important that we listen to the right people and sometimes I’ve felt that the media criticism has been a bit harsh. We just need to win and then everyone will see that we’re on the right track. We believe that we are and we’ve taken a couple of steps in the right direction even though the results didn’t go our way.

KB: You must have been especially disappointed to lose to Australia in Perth after dominating that game for so long?
JdV: Both games overseas, we felt we should have won, but those are the margins of Test rugby. One or two mistakes and you find yourselves 10 points down, but that’s what we need to learn from. That’s where experience comes in and all those names we’ve lost. It reminds me of 2004, there are a lot of similarities. We came close in Christchurch and Perth and then we won the two games at home and ended up winning the Tri-Nations.

KB: You also made the All Blacks look very beatable. You must take a lot of confidence from that?
JdV: Exactly. We’re not just focused on the result. We were up against the best in the world – the World Cup winners – and we came close to beating them at home, so that was good for us. They will still probably go on to win the tournament, but stranger things have happened in sport. We’re still holding thumbs for our chances, but if we don’t win the title, we at least want to get two good wins to finish.

KB: How big a blow is it for the All Blacks that Sonny Bill Williams is not available?
JdV: He’s a quality player and he brought a lot of confidence and skill to their midfield, on an individual basis. But Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith have been a partnership that has served them well for several years, they were probably the outstanding centre combination in world rugby.

KB: What have Argentina brought to the competition?
JdV: They’ve showed that they’re going to be great for the competition. They bring a new feeling, a bit of freshness to the tournament. They’ve been really good, they’ve definitely shown that they belong and we’ll wait and see how New Zealand and Australia do over there.

KB: Is there any chance of you playing in France at some stage in the future?
JdV: Never say never! If a good offer comes … I’ve always said I’d love to play professional rugby in France, just to be a part of the culture and experience the passion for the game there.


Jantjies kicks Lions to just third win 0

Posted on July 08, 2012 by Ken

The Lions claimed just their third victory of the season as flyhalf Elton Jantjies succeeded with all seven of his kicks at goal to give them a 37-32 victory over the Melbourne Rebels in their SuperRugby match at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Lions had to overcome a fantastic comeback by the Rebels, who scored three second-half tries to turn a 7-24 half-time deficit into a 32-27 lead.

But replacement flank Jaco Kriel then charged down the blindside to score an equalising try, which Jantjies converted from the touchline to give the Lions the lead, the young flyhalf then kicking a penalty on the final hooter to stretch the winning margin to five points.

The Lions, who have an interim coaching staff due to the suspension of former All Black mentor John Mitchell, played with enormous confidence and freedom in the first half as they ran in three tries and Jantjies kicked a penalty to give them a 24-0 lead after 36 minutes.

“We had a disappointing first 15/20 minutes, making simple, fundamental errors in good field positions, that gave the Lions lots of possession and, to their credit, they turned that into points,” Rebels coach Damian Hill told a news conference after the game.

The home side made a great start when right wing Lionel Mapoe stepped inside and sent outside centre Waylon Murray over for the opening try after just two minutes.

Nine minutes later, Mapoe and Murray again combined well down the right, the Lions then quickly swinging the ball to the left, where outstanding flanker Derick Minnie barged his way over the tryline.

The Rebels tried to stretch the Lions with clever attacking play, but they struggled to get on the front foot against an aggressive defence, and the Lions also ruled the breakdowns in the first half. The Australians went off their feet at a ruck in the 25th minute, allowing Jantjies to kick a penalty (17-0), and Minnie then read the situation perfectly as he burst from a rolling maul through a big gap in the defence to score his second try.

The Rebels finally had some points on the board on the half-time hooter as they protected the ball well in a rolling maul, hooker Ged Robinson emerging with the try, which was converted by fullback Julian Huxley.

Having dominated the opening 40 minutes, it was a case of losing focus in the second half for the Lions, who also lost their discipline at the breakdown and conceded a string of penalties to give the Rebels momentum and territory.

“There was a lack of concentration in the second half, especially defensively, with guys not manning up in the one-on-one tackles,” Lions captain Josh Strauss said. “If we can keep concentrating for 80 minutes and play like we did in the first 40 minutes, then we’ll be a very dangerous side. We’re still playing for pride and each other.”

Lock Hugh Pyle scored two tries in three minutes for the Rebels, crossing over in the 47th and 50th minutes.

His first try came after the visitors kept the ball in the forwards, tighthead prop Jono Owen also carrying strongly, while his second came after wing Mark Gerrard had sped back into the Lions’ half from the kick-off, scrumhalf Nick Phipps was up in support and Pyle was able to take advantage of a big overlap on the right.

Huxley converted Pyle’s first try and then brought the Rebels to within two points in the 58th minute as he kicked a penalty after the Lions failed to roll away in the ruck.

Jantjies replied with a penalty which stretched the Lions lead to 27-22, but then became the villain of the piece as his clearance kick was charged down by flyhalf Jimmy Hilgendorf to give the Rebels an equalising try which was confirmed by Television Match Official Johann Meuwesen.

Huxley converted to give the Rebels a 29-27 lead, before adding a penalty which stretched the lead to 32-27.

“There’s a good spirit and camaraderie in the group and we’ve consistently shown that when we’re down, we find a way back. But too often we let ourselves down first and we need to find a way to be better as a team, to be able to put pressure on the opposition from the start,” experienced Rebels captain Stirling Mortlock said.

But Lions scrumhalf Michael Bondesio then caught the Rebels defence napping with a pop-pass down the blindside to Kriel, who powered through the cover defence to score in the corner.

The 21-year-old Jantjies kept his calm to kick the conversion and give the crowd a happy ending to the Lions’ last home game of the season, and perhaps their last in SuperRugby as they are slated for relegation next year to make room for the Southern Kings.


Lions – Tries: Waylon Murray, Derick Minnie (2), Jaco Kriel. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4). Penalties: Jantjies (3).

Melbourne Rebels – Tries: Ged Robinson, Hugh Pyle (2), Jimmy Hilgendorf. Conversions: Julian Huxley (3). Penalties: Huxley (2).


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