Heinz Schenk
5 minute read
5 Apr 2019
3:20 pm

The enigmatic Elton Jantjies: Unplugged

Heinz Schenk

There are a lot of perceptions about the Lions and Springbok flyhalf. Most of them are wrong.

Elton Jantjies of Lions in action during the Super Rugby match between Sunwolves and Lions at National Stadium on March 23, 2019 in Singapore. (Photo by Lionel Ng/Getty Images for Sunwolves)

Elton Jantjies is part of a long lineage of South African rugby players who have polarised opinion.

To the Lions, he’s a darling … and probably approaching legend status.

Yet the 28-year-old Springbok flyhalf still struggles to command the same admiration from the broader rugby community, particularly when his suitability at international level is discussed.

Then there are the tattoos and the wacky hairstyles – all salient indicators to the conservatives that still overwhelmingly build and uphold the perceptions on the game that Jantjies is a flaky player.

Regardless of what one’s opinion is about him, there are facts to consider.

Jantjies is only the fifth player in history and the second South African to have score more than 1000 points.

He has 123 tournament caps.

In 32 Tests, he’s scored 226 points without a truly consistent run of matches ever being afforded to him.

This apparent wild child credits Japanese culture – he played in the country for five years – for imbuing him with a newfound work ethic, which sees him train seven days a week nowadays.

Thoroughly in the prime of his career, this is a small glimpse into who Elton Jantjies is…

On his “insane” training regime…

It is crazy. I always want to find ways to get fitter. I’ve changed personal trainers. There are different ways to get fitter and get refreshed mentally in that regard. You can’t just keep doing the same regime. I won’t know whether it’s good for me if I don’t train seven days a week. Or one day a week. I just know I need to push myself every single day as far as I can and be consistent in everything I do in my life.

On joining the so-called 1000 club in Super Rugby and what it means…

I didn’t build up towards it. I didn’t think about it. In fact, I didn’t even know about it. I had a press conference with Warren Whiteley and I just saw on the team release that I was close to 1000 points. It lit something up in me. I had to wait two weeks before I kicked a conversion against the Jaguares. I remember thinking if I slot this, it will be 1000. That was the first time I thought about it.

It means a lot, in terms of guys who’ve done it before: the (Dan) Carters, the (Morne) Steyns and (Stirling) Mortlocks. I’ve always wanted to leave some sort of legacy in the sport and hopefully this is it.

Why the perception that he hasn’t always enjoyed playing for the Boks is false…

I’ve always enjoyed playing for the Springboks. I’ve never had a bad experience. You can’t tell me you don’t cherish every moment you pull that jersey over your head. You can’t. Then you shouldn’t ever play for the Springboks. We’ve got a lot of people behind us. It’s just so challenging and you want to enjoy that.

On his 10-12 partnership with Handre Pollard at the Boks and why it’s been so promising…

It was fun. We enjoyed it. Even at training, we clicked since they’ve tried to make that move. We just delivered it on Saturdays. It’s certainly something the national coaches have looked at. I can’t determine what their thinking forward. It seems to work because we’ve set our egos aside. We’ve used our strengths together. Handre’s a flyhalf, I’m a flyhalf. I see things in my own way, he sees things his way and funnily enough it just seems to work. He’s a right-footer, I’m a leftie.

We see things in a certain way, almost broader. When Handre moves to 12, he sees the position as a flyhalf, not in a potentially one-dimensional way as a centre. It helps a lot.

Why he didn’t go to Japan at the end of last year…

To rest up. To get better at a physical level, fitter, faster and leaner. I’ve lost two kgs. I wanted to spend some time at home with my family and obviously there was a conversation with the national setup and franchise to put my body in the best possible shape and being able to perform consistently for the Lions, making the World Cup squad and winning it.

How he’s learnt to become a Super Sub in the Green-and-Gold…

I’ve definitely made an adjustment. I’m not starting, but I’m going to finish. I’ve got certain roles that I set myself coming off the bench, I target certain things. I believe I ticked most of the boxes, now I know I just need to do those things better when I’m in that position again.

Why the Lions are in a far better place than some cynics tend to think they are…

We don’t stand for what critics say about us. We play for two reasons: to inspire nations worldwide, wherever we are. They must see that this team is something different – that we play for the Man above. And secondly, we want to score tries. We’ll never shy away from that.

It’s an ongoing process. Everyone says when senior players leave you have to rebuild, but the fantastic juniors we have now have been exposed to our philosophy since they were 18. When they come into the senior squad, they already now what we stand for and how we want to play. They’ve got a big privilege in that regard.

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