Jantjies wins flyhalf battle
MTN Lions whizzkid Elton Jantjies set a new Vodacom Super Rugby record as he scored all his team’s points as they edged a tight contest against the Toyota Cheetahs 27-25 at Coca Cola Park Saturday night.
Jantjies hit nine penalties, breaking a long standing record shared by four players – Bulls Jannie Kruger (1996 v Highlanders) and Derick Hougaard (2007 v Crusaders), Highlander Willie Walker (2003 v Chiefs) and former Cheetah Meyer Bosman (2006 v Stormers) as he kicked his side to a victory in a scrappy game which possibly set a record in the penalty count as well.
The Cheetahs looked to be cruising at one stage, but a lopsided penalty count, which they conceded 17-11 and two yellow cards where ultimately their downfall as they lost a game they could have won.
The biggest positive to come from the game was not the form of either side however, as referee Mark Lawrence was forced to give no less than 28 penalties, many of which were within kicking range.
It was rather the reminder that while South Africa still possesses a dead shot in Morne Steyn, the talent snapping at his heels is catching up fast.
In the one corner we had Jantjies, the night’s hero and architect of the Absa Currie Cup victory last year, who possesses a sure step on attack that often flummoxes defences. Jantjies’ success is not so much his speed, but the hesitation he causes defences, allowing a gap for him to put players both on his inside and outside away. In fact, if anything he seems hesitant when he gets a gap, and seems much more at home sharing the load to his hard-running teammates.
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In the other the Cheetahs had Goosen, the 19 year old flyhalf prodigy, who not only can attack, break defensive lines and defend, but can also slot goals from almost anywhere on the park. Five penalties – one from 57 metres, a 50 metre drop goal and a conversion gave him 20 points.
For Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, the knowledge that the flyhalf berth is in sound hands is possibly the best news of the weekend, although a full Super Rugby season will probably be better to sort out the pecking order for national honours.
Goosen’s biggest sin for the Cheetahs probably was that he didn’t complete the match, as when he was off with a yellow card, Tewis de Bruyn missed a crucial penalty, and when replaced Sias Ebersohn did the same.
And ironically it was in this period where Jantjies, after a bit of a shaky start, stamped his authority on the game.
With all the commotion around the flyhalves and the whistle, it would be easy to forget that this was the Lions first home win since 2009, a desperate and happy return for the 22000 fans who pitched up at the stadium.
Jantjies eventually slotted the crucial penalty with six minutes to go, after missing an easy shot five minutes earlier and watching the Cheetahs miss their chances in the same period. If anything in a game of nerves, his held out, thereby giving the team the victory.
There were others who stood out. Fetchers Derick Minnie and Heinrich Brussow probably ended up even – showing how much Minnie has improved in the last year or so, while Adriaan Strauss, celebrating his 50th cap, was pure class.
The match did have a low point though, as veteran Wikus van Heerden was concussed after a tip tackle by midfielder Andries Strauss, with Van Heerden off the field on a stretcher and Strauss yellow carded for his effort. The Cheetah will face further sanction after receiving a white card – meaning the judicial officer will relook the incident to decide if further action against the player is necessary.
MTN Lions – Penalties: Elton Jantjies (9).
Toyota Cheetahs – Try: WP Nel. Conversion: Johan Goosen. Drop Goal: Goosen. Penalties: Johan Goosen (5) .