Heinz Schenk
3 minute read
20 Aug 2018
4:17 pm

Yes, the reality is that Pollard gets off easier than Jantjies

Heinz Schenk

But the debate becomes interesting when the playing ability of the two Springbok flyhalves is compared.

Handre Pollard of the Springboks during the South African national rugby team captains run at Jonsson Kings Park on August 17, 2018 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Gordon Arons/Gallo Images)

When a local sports website posted a video of the Springboks three debutants’ first media conference in the Green-and-Gold on Facebook, the first comment didn’t even relate to them.

Instead, the individual wanted to know why Handre Pollard hadn’t been sent out to explain his poor day off the kicking tee.

His question was a valid one, given how the Bok flyhalf had missed five kicks at goal in the 34-21 victory over Argentina.

However, what his query didn’t reveal was the undercurrent.

ALSO READ: Young Willemse chilled over a less than glamorous Bok debut

During the game, social media users were very much in unison in asking one question: what would’ve happened if the No 10 missing all those kicks was Elton Jantjies?

The answer is a simple one – there would’ve been outrage.

We can’t deny that Pollard has emerged quite unscathed from a performance that wasn’t particularly good even on a general level.

The debate became racially polarised and, frankly, that wasn’t surprising.

We’re past the point where we can try to bury that inconvenient truth.

Pollard is a strapping, white Afrikaner man with a prodigious boot and a generally wholesome public persona – despite that horribly corny Vodacom ad from a few years back.

Jantjies is a stocky, coloured playmaker with a questionable haircut and far too many tattoos, who seems slow off the mark and can’t kick all that far.

Basic impressions, like in many other sporting codes, count for a lot in rugby.

Pollard “looks” like an international player; Jantjies has to continually convince people he is one because he doesn’t “look” like it.

So yes, the reality is that Pollard escapes criticism far easier than Jantjies.

But if one expands the discussion to playing ability and pedigree, the line becomes blurred.

Pollard has played 30 Tests and scored 250 points, Jantjies 26 for a haul of 215 points.

Not much to differentiate from there.

Pollard, in essence, is still riding on his wave from the 2015 World Cup, where he showed good composure in a tight tournament.

Yet injuries and iffy form at times over the following two years means we’re still not quite sure how good he really is.

Jantjies chose to surge back into Springbok contention at a time when the national side was at a very low ebb.

2016 and 2017 was by all accounts not vintage years in the Green-and-Gold and the Lions pivot experienced ups and downs in line with the national side.

That inconsistency means people doubt his ability to make the step up to the highest level and leads to predictable moans and groans that he’s being handed far too many opportunities.

As national coach Rassie Erasmus though will tell you, you can’t exactly ignore a flyhalf that’s guided his Super Rugby franchise to three consecutive finals.

It’s likely there’ll be fierce debate about who should don the No 10 jersey against the Pumas in Mendoza this weekend.

Some might complain a Pollard selection is preferential but one can counter that by arguing that Jantjies is continually backed at the Lions, where coach Swys de Bruin brags that they’ve never substituted him during a game in three years.

If it works for the Lions, then Erasmus backing Pollard after one off-day is perfectly palatable.

On the flip side, picking Jantjies is going to be met with complaints too.

A potential bad showing will provide ammunition for the I-told-you-so’ers, while others will argue he had to perform in a far more pressure-cooker environment than Pollard had to.

Durban is NOT Mendoza.

Then again, a counter to those arguments is that one of Jantjies’ best performances in a Springbok jersey came in last year’s 41-23 triumph over Argentina in Salta.

It brings us back to the crux of the matter.

Pollard and Jantjies are players probably burdened with overblown expectations when both are really still just trying to establish themselves at international level.

All that one really wants is for them to be criticised fairly … and that, unfortunately, isn’t happening at the moment.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

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