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Elton – Square peg in a round hole?

It is still a little early for the horrible “I told you so” speeches says Tank Lanning in his eNCA.com column, but was Elton Jantjies ever going to fit into the Stormers’ defensive gameplan?

Sure the Cape side – in the guise of Western Province – played a slightly more attacking brand of rugby in the Currie Cup, which they went on to win, but I think we all know that the Currie Cup and Super Rugby are now at best distant cousins.

And while I believe the Stormers should indeed be taking the Currie Cup lead and playing a more possession based game, given the current coaching and player resources, I think they were always going to revert to type. And while Elton Jantjies has his strengths – his deft passes have lead to a few fantastic tries for the Cape side this year – defense is certainly not one of them.

Throw in an abysmal kicking performance in his first game for his new side (not sure it was that clever to select him given that his father’s death meant he missed both the Stormers’ warm up games) and coach Allister Coetzee has had to defend his selection, sometimes quite tetchily, at every press conference since.

This while Demitri Catrakilis in the Currie Cup final was described as such in the official match report: “Then came two magical Catrakilis moments that secured it for the visitors, with the young pivot producing his finest performance of the season when it mattered most and setting a fitting seal on a WP career that now comes to an end as he prepares for his move to Port Elizabeth. Catrakilis’s tactical kicking played a massive part in the WP win, but the two drop-goals were the ones that ensured that the points difference would be a bridge too far for the Sharks.”

Yes it was in the Currie Cup and not Super Rugby, but it was a final, and there had been enough to suggest that there was more to come from this talented player. Now he is one of the leading lights in a magnificently gutsy start to Super Rugby from the Kings. Throw in the stellar performance from another ex WP flyhalf – Burton Francis – for the Cheetahs against the Stormers on Saturday, and it is no wonder people are questioning the alleged R4million price tag that came with Jantjies.

Western Province produce an enormous amount of talent every year, more than any union could ever hope to hold onto, especially given the lack of patience from young players these days. And it’s about contracting according to the senior team’s current and future player needs, so it’s understandable for a union like WP to lose the odd player.

And I think all fans understand the recruitment of players to fill voids in certain positions, but it is the recruitment of players – at huge cost – to replace home grown talent previously lost to another province, or country, that riles.

Had the Stormers changed both the coaching and player resources to fit a more attacking game plan where Jantjies would have been given free reign (a massive call), then by all means, give it a go, but to ask him to come and fit into a defensive game plan is like forcing a square peg into a round hole.

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Author: Tank

Ex WP prop with a fair amount of experience in all things media ...

6 Comments

  1. Elton is playing kak as payback for WP selling the Lions Earl Rose all those years ago……

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  3. I think EJ is a good player but in my opinion that is, at the moment, where it ends. His deft passes are fantastic but other than that and the occasional tactical kick, he does not offer much more. His all-round kicking game is weak, defence poor (on Stormers standards at least) and he is not a fly-half capable of helping restructure a backline. Of course this might change as he grows as a player and I hope it does. When I heard he was going to the Stormers I thought either he is going to spark the backline to hold onto the ball and attack, and if so will he be able to keep up with such a professional outfit, or he is going to whittle in the new environment. It seems so far he has done both. He is not instilling confidence in the backline and his prowess on the field does not support a backline that is playing a new brand of rugby; they need an experienced fly-half that consistently puts in good performances for them to be able to change their brand of rugby successfully (which is at the moment being debated whether it was the right thing to do in the first place).

    EJ has a lot of learning to do and fortunately a lot of time. He might not be playing excellent rugby at the moment but he certainly has the capability of doing so, it is a matter of refining his game and working on his weaknesses. In fact, I would argue that he is being poorly managed at the moment; being thrust into the Bulls game is an example of this and it probably set the tone for his season.

  4. The way I see it, Elton’s shortcomings far outweigh his talents. I’d take a fly half that is an average ball distributor but a good defender and a dependable kicker anytime.

  5. I can’t agree more with you Tank. What i also think is that Stormers/wP should invest should either invest in a scrumhalf like young Piet van Zyl from the Cheetahs or give Louis Schreuder decent opportunities. To my mind he is better than both Duvenhage and Groom but how is he going to prove it.

  6. As always you know your stuff Tank. Thank you.