Damian Willemse and Elton Jantjies. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
- Despite the Elton Jantjies saga engulfing them, the Springboks maintain that rugby and only rugby in their focus against Argentina this Saturday.
- With the subject a taboo in terms of questioning, coach Jacques Nienaber suggested that “external pressure” like speculation over Jantjies is something the team brushes off.
- The Boks also hope treating the match in Buenos Aires as a semifinal or final assists in keeping their thoughts purposeful.
Despite a continued ban on any Elton Jantjies-related questioning, Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber reiterated his colleague Deon Davids’ party line that the side’s focus is exactly where it needs to be ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship meeting with Argentina in Buenos Aires.
A sense of unease currently surrounds the team after the mercurial flyhalf was sent home along with dietician Zeenat Simjee following revelations of an alleged romantic affair between the two, raising a myriad of questions over management’s code of conduct and ethos on internal matters.
SA Rugby previously stated that no team protocols were breached in the Jantjies saga.
“I’ve said before that there’s a lot of pressure any national team has to deal with. There are two types. One is external pressure. Can we control that? No. There’s internal pressure, the type where we demand certain standards from each other. It’s about expectations. That’s the pressure we can control,” Nienaber said on Tuesday.
“Internal pressure is what we focus on. External pressure, be it injuries or even speculation, is something we have to brush aside because we can’t control it. It’s no use expending energy on it. We can’t change it. It is what it is.”
Assisting them in their mission of keeping rugby at the forefront of their thoughts, the Boks are viewing the match – along with next week’s re-match in Durban – as a play-off match for staying in the hunt for the Rugby Championship title.
“We’re 100% treating the last two matches as a semifinal or a final. If we want to be successful and claim this title, we have to treat it that way,” said Nienaber.
“Every Test match for us is winning at all costs. Every team we select, even if we don’t always have continuity in selection, is about winning. You’re representing your country.”
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Elrigh Louw, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Frans Steyn
While refraining from making mention of the void Jantjies leaves in terms of depth in the flyhalf position, Nienaber reasonably pointed out that the Boks coped well without him against Australia in Sydney, when he wasn’t available anyway due to a hand injury.
Damian Willemse made an impression as a pivot, while veteran Frans Steyn is experienced in the position too.
“Sometimes you’re confronted with things like injuries, like us losing Handre Pollard or what happened in the right wing position. But it allows you to test your depth too. You get some experience in your squad,” said the Bok coach.
“We’re comfortable keeping Damian there with Frans covering.”
Kick-off is at 21:10.