Hats off to Herschel Jantjies after a dream debut

JOHANNESBURG – A debut to remember! That’s what young 23-year-old Herschel Jantjies will have for the rest of his life.

Thrown in at the deep end, in what many said was a weakened Springbok team, the Western Province and Stormers man delivered on every front in his first outing in the green and gold against Australia at Ellis Park on Saturday.

In the week leading up to the opening Rugby Championship match of the season, Bok backs coach Mzwandile Stick predicted Jantjies could become one of the great No 9s of South African rugby. He said his performances for the Stormers in Super Rugby were at a consistently high level, that he was clinical in terms of his passing and basic skills and that he had a dangerous “snipe” that often caught out defences.

Well, Jantjies put all of those traits on display on Saturday. He scored two tries, the second after a darting run on the blindside, and also played a big role in Lood de Jager’s try.

Herschel - Hats off to Herschel Jantjies after a dream debut
Scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies scored two tries on his Springbok debut against the Wallabies on Saturday. Photo: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

Bok boss Rassie Erasmus said he didn’t want to praise Jantjies too much, but ultimately conceded he couldn’t do anything else.

“I don’t want to praise a guy too much, but I can’t do anything other than praise him,” said Erasmus.

“This guy was playing off the bench in the Currie Cup a year ago, then he played Super Rugby this season and now he’s a Test player. His service, his box kicks, the technical things, his grit on defence and the way he attacked he was awesome. Hopefully he’ll grow from this experience. It was a great start for him; he can be very proud.”

Bok No 8 Francois Louw called Jantjies’ performance “phenomenal”.

“What a huge occasion for him. Sure, he had three weeks in camp, but he would have been nervous among all the seasoned Boks and before his first start. But what a phenomenal game. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

Fellow No 9 Cobus Reinach, who came back into the squad for the first time since 2015 and who also scored a try on Saturday, said of his new teammate: “I watched him on TV and he’s obviously a quality player; you won’t have players here who aren’t Test quality. But he had an unbelievable debut, so hats off to him.”

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Erasmus said that with Jantjies and Reinach now part of the squad, the Boks had plenty of good scrumhalf options to consider before the World Cup. Faf de Klerk is currently the first choice No 9 and is set to feature against the All Blacks this coming weekend.

“The scrumhalf depth is now good. Last year we tried and played Ivan van Zyl, Embrose Papier and Louis Schreuder, so as things stand, we’re very happy with the depth at scrumhalf. We know who fits in, who can adapt, and going forward, who’s available and who can do what.” 


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