Home Sport Time for Herschel to get a proper run at No.9

Time for Herschel to get a proper run at No.9

South Africa’s Herschel Jantjies has made 16 substitute appearances and only two starts. So surely it’s time to give him more of a run in the Bok team. File Picture: Raghavan Venugopal, www.Photosport.nz 2019

It’s been 16 substitute appearances and two starts for Jantjies up to now. Faf de Klerk has been the first-choice No.9 under the current coaching set-up.

DID YOU know that out of his 18 Test caps, Herschel Jantjies has started in only two matches for the Springboks?

The 25-year-old scrumhalf had a dream debut, scoring two tries against the Wallabies at Ellis Park in a morale-boosting 35-17 Rugby Championship victory that set the tone for the World Cup year.

Jantjies had another memorable outing a week later against the All Blacks in Wellington, coming on as a second-half substitute and scoring the try that helped the Boks to a 16-16 draw.

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But the Stormers halfback’s only other start at international level came in the World Cup encounter against Namibia, which the Boks won comfortably 57-3 in Aichi, Japan.

Springbok scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies scoring a try. Picture: SA Rugby

So, it’s been 16 substitute appearances and two starts for Jantjies up to now. Faf de Klerk has been the first-choice No.9 under the current coaching set-up, but was ruled out of the November tour to Europe with a hip flexor issue that may even require surgery.

That means Jantjies should be in the run-on XV for the opening game of the tour against Wales on November 6, but will he be?

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Cobus Reinach – who has had nine starts in 18 Tests since his 2014 debut against Australia at Newlands – has been behind De Klerk and Jantjies in the scrumhalf pecking order since the 2019 season but started both Rugby Championship Tests against Argentina in Gqeberha in August.

JUST A SMALL-TOWN BOY: Springbok sensation Herschel Jantjies. File Photo: Raghavan Venugopal.

Jantjies was named on the bench, and was subsequently withdrawn with a hip issue. Jaden Hendrikse replaced him, but sustained an ankle injury in the second Argentina match and he may only return next year.

Jantjies, though, was back in action on the four-match Rugby Championship trip to Australia, and deputised for De Klerk in the Tests against the Wallabies and All Blacks.

So, the time has come for Nienaber to back Jantjies and start him in the three November Tests against Wales, Scotland and England. He has waited long enough for a proper opportunity, and needs to be given the necessary game time to also challenge De Klerk for the first-choice spot.

The latter battled with his form earlier in the season – and came in for heavy criticism for his incessant box-kicks – but seemed to rediscover his touch in the last win over the All Blacks. De Klerk, though, cannot feel that he is ‘undroppable’, as with any player, and that is why Jantjies should be provided with an opportunity to showcase his talents on the November tour. The third scrumhalf in the squad is the Sharks’ Grant Williams, who is uncapped and is there as a back-up option in case of injury.

Nienaber was asked this week whether De Klerk’s absence will change the way the Boks play, and he said: “Faf will be a big loss, but it’s between Herschel, Cobus and Grant stepping up into that role.

“Will we play differently (with De Klerk out)? Obviously players have different attributes, and we must make sure that we play towards the strength of not only our team, but also our players. We will have to have a look, and there are a lot of things that will factor into that.”

One would hope that Nienaber saw how De Klerk benefited from a slight change in strategy in the second All Black Test, where he was given licence to test the defence more with ball-in-hand, which is also obviously Jantjies’ strength.

But he must also be allowed to prove that he can execute the much-maligned Bok kicking game as well as igniting the attack, just like De Klerk was earlier in his career.

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