Having had a few days to mull over the ramifications of a potential Sharks move for Lions pivot Elton Jantjies, as well as digest some of the (seriously divided) opinions that others have put forward, I think I now know where I stand on the matter.
Let me preface this by stating, once again, the high esteem in which I hold Jantjies as a rugby player. I’ll admit to being sceptical of his credentials earlier in his career when I felt he was being elevated to superstar status in the so-called “court of public opinion” long before his on-field exploits actually warranted the same. My view, as always, is that I want to actually SEE these young players perform consistently on higher stages before touting them as Boks, rather than just HEARING about what they’ve done at junior level. The same logic applies to Johan Goosen, but I may be forced to concede that I’m farting against thunder where that one is concerned! As far as Jantjies goes, though, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been convinced. This kid is the real deal.
When the initial talk of a Sharks deal for Jantjies started, I immediately dismissed it as a wrong-headed thing to do, for no reason other than the fact that the Sharks have Pat Lambie and he’s our flyhalf, dammit, regardless of what Heyneke Meyer says. I then started to let my mind wander just a little bit and will admit to a few virtual goosebump moments as I imagined a Sharks backline containing both Lambie AND Jantjies and the various wondrous feats that those two players, in tandem, could achieve in the black and white. Every single one of those scenarios, though, saw Lambie in a position other than the one that fits him best and I then realised that the Sharks have fallen into this “Real Madrid” trap before, thinking that if you pack your team with enough big name stars, it doesn’t matter which position each plays in because they’ll somehow magically feed off each other and deliver the goods without the need for settled players and combinations, in their most suited positions.
This is a fantasy and I feel ashamed to admit that I entertained it, even for a minute.
The Sharks, in Lambie, have one of the best flyhalves in the world and he’s only 21. We need to back him in that position and, what’s more, allow our own “unique x-factor combination” between Lambie and Frans Steyn to settle and then flourish at the heart of the backline. We finally have good competition at outside centre, with Tim Whitehead and Paul Jordaan set to push each other all the way and we have more wings and fullback options than you can shake a stick at too. While it is always tempting to look at players like Janjties – and dare I say also the freakishly good Jaco Taute – when they’re on the market, the reality is that the Sharks do not need to contract any more backs ahead of Super Rugby next year and I believe that doing so would, in fact, do more harm than good.
The only role that Jantjies could realistically play, without damaging the team dynamic, is to be Lambie’s backup at 10. I don’t feel that such a role would be appropriate to a player of Elton’s talent or pedigree and I’m sure that the result of taking on such a position would be a deeply unhappy and frustrated player. Goodness knows you don’t want any of those in your squad. It would be far better for Elton Jantjies to become the starting flyhalf for the Stormers next year and leave Pat Lambie – and dare I say Fred Zeilinga – to look after the number 10 channel for the Sharks.Tweet