CAPE TOWN – With the Super Rugby season fast approaching the business end, the battle for places in the Springbok World Cup squad will also intensify.
Each game will not only have an influence on the respective teams’ progress, but will also be of crucial importance to the individuals involved.
Young Stormers scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies will therefore be hoping he can further enhance his growing reputation in the clash against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday (9.40pm).
A rank outsider for a place on the flight to Japan at the beginning of the season due to being second in the pecking order at Newlands behind veteran Jano Vermaak, the former UWC halfback is now firmly in the Bok frame.
The 23-year-old has comfortably been the most consistent Stormers backline player since his match-winning try against the Lions when he came on to replace the injured Vermaak in Round 2.
Jantjies’ speed to the breakdown that allows him to get the ball out to his backline with clinical efficiency has always been well-known. He has proved he can do it under pressure now too, while his clearing from the base of the scrum is improving.
Equally, his support play has been of the highest standard – like when he was on Dillyn Leyds’ shoulder last Saturday at Newlands to kill off the Bulls’ challenge.
The Springboks have an alignment camp next week and Jantjies should be on Bok coach Rassie Erasmus’s radar. Jantjies’ Stormers mentor Robbie Fleck certainly believes it would be a deserved call-up.
“He is playing outstanding rugby and has just grown from strength to strength as the competition has gone on. His service is quick and effective, he is dangerous around the fringes, and the biggest jump in his game has been his defence,” Fleck said.
“I’m very happy for him and we’ve invested a lot of time in him. He’s coming through nicely and I’m very excited of where he can go this year. He is one of the best No 9s in the country at the moment.”
Jantjies will hope that the forwards ease his task in his maiden outing at the Estadio José Amalfitani. The visitors are expecting a cauldron-like atmosphere in South America and will need to counter it without the experience of Springboks Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Frans Malherbe.
It will certainly be a great test for the likes of Cobus Wiese, Jaco Coetzee and Wilco Louw to show they can step up and provide a solid base for Jantjies to pull the strings.