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Ken Borland

Nienaber bravely tries to limit damage to Jantjies’ confidence 0

Posted on August 15, 2022 by Ken

Having gambled and lost with his selection of Elton Jantjies at flyhalf, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber bravely tried to limit the damage to his player’s confidence after the first Test against Wales at Loftus Versfeld.

Jantjies endured a miserable first half of skewed kicks out-of-hand, missed shots at goal and a dropped ball that led to a try, and was substituted before the start of the second half with the Springboks 18-3 down. Barring a few exceptions, the whole team had been sub-par in the first half, but with the help of pugnacious input from the bench, they staged a stirring comeback to win 32-29.

It is only right, though, that Nienaber stand up for Jantjies because the player was put in an invidious position by being selected for the first Test with, as the coach himself said after the game, “less than 30 minutes of game-time this year”.

I can understand why the risk was taken with Jantjies, who has only just recovered from a shoulder injury and whose club did not make the playoffs of Japan’s Rugby League One. The 31-year-old has also had the mental stress of being charged with malicious damage to property and contravention of the Aviation Act to deal with, before those charges were withdrawn after he agreed to pay for the damage he caused to an aeroplane flying back from Turkey.

Flyhalf is one of the few areas where the Springboks are lacking depth and the management were obviously planning ahead in case first-choice Handre Pollard suddenly gets injured. If Jantjies then had to come in and play with so little rugby under his belt, it could have been even worse.

The World Cup winner does now at least have 40 minutes of game-time, and hopefully the trauma of it has not dented his confidence too much.

Nienaber tried to sugarcoat his replacement as being because “he had given everything”, but when he said “he hasn’t played any rugby” he was closer to the reason why.

Despite the fan furore, Jantjies is still a player who has much to offer the Springboks. What he is capable of when in form definitely adds some attacking spark to a team which, for long periods of the first half against Wales, looked desperately in need of some offensive verve.

How he bounces back from this calamitous showing is what matters now.

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