Where he used to carrying the hopes of a beleaguered team on his young shoulders he has now been thrust into a whole new ball game – to help a successful team win an elusive trophy, a massive responsibility for a youngster not deemed, by many, to be good enough for the Boks.
Throughout his relatively short senior career he has operated under immense pressure, not only on to perform on the field and the pressure of supporters expectations for him to turn his team’s fortunes around. In the media has been, at times, written off and at other times, talked up while in the Springbok camp he has been relegated to bag carrier most of the time. Rugby fans tend to magnify his perceived weaknesses and often chose to ignore his strengths.
Now, suddenly, the Stormers management and fans see his as their great hope to finally win a Super Rugby trophy. In virtually every media article about the Stormers there is talk about his x-factor and how he can improve the Stormers’ attack, help them score more tries and help them possibly win the trophy.
Unlike the other young flyhalves like Lambie and Goosen, who only have to worry about their own performances within their team set-up, the “responsibility” placed on Jantjies is so much more. Nowhere do you read that Lambie, now that he is the Sharks’ first choice flyhalf, is the key to them winning the trophy and nobody is tasking Johan Goosen with getting the Cheetahs into the play-offs.
I’m afraid that in the end Jantjies’s season will be measured by the Stormers success or failure, rather than by his own individual performances.
Come Friday night Elton Jantjies makes his debut for the Stormers against the Bulls, a debut fraught with traps and pitfalls. Not only hasn’t he played a practice match due to the untimely death of his father, he also steps into a team featuring new combinations from the front row through to the back three while he plays with new halfback and centre partners, both his # 9 and #12 are Super Rugby rookies with Nic Groom having played 2 matches and Damian de Allende making his debut.
These first matches often serve to shake off the off-season rust and, combined with the number of new combinations, I don’t expect this game to be filled with adventurous rugby and the Stormers suddenly scoring tons of tries, especially if one consider that they are playing a very experienced and settled Bulls side.
I hope the Stormers and other rugby fans will be realistic in their expectations for this match and for Jantjies in this match.