The tats, the hair, the attitude: Why fans give Jantjies stick
The Lions flyhalf has become SA rugby’s voodoo doll, yet he’s on the verge of 1,000 Super Rugby points
A significant milestone beckons for Elton Jantjies this weekend. He will become only the fifth player after New Zealand’s Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett, Springbok Morne Steyn, and Australia’s Stirling Mortlock to reach 1,000 points in Super Rugby.
Yet, there is the fear the moment may pass without as much as a whimper. Should Jantjies score two points and reach that landmark in the course of a Lions defeat to the Jaguares at Ellis Park, the moment will of course be overshadowed by a pall of gloom.
Not that the 28-year-old is in short supply of folks who’d be happy to look the other way should he join that elite club. Since making his senior debut for the Lions in 2011, Jantjies has consistently divided opinion.
Those who regularly attend matches at Ellis Park will number among his devotees. They have seen him conjure magic, pulling off the seemingly impossible with deft touches and incisive interventions as an established part of his repertoire.
Away from Ellis Park, however, his detractors are like Klansmen in search of a tree. Even when he wears a Springbok jersey, chances are he’d get heckled. Just why he is so reviled in some quarters? Is it the hair? Is it the body art? Is it his swinging saloon door swagger? Is it his at times surly disposition? Is it because he is left footed? Is it perhaps because he’s black, and to some the face of transformation gone wrong? Some may suggest it is all of the above.
What is clear, though, is that Jantjies is not your average player. You don’t get to score 1,000 points in Super Rugby and be average. That is a body of work that cannot be amassed by mediocrity.
Sure, he has his shortcomings. At Test level Jantjies has not grabbed matches by the scruff of the neck as he so routinely does in Super Rugby. He can dissolve behind a retreating pack, as we witnessed against the Bulls at Ellis Park last weekend. To be fair, in those circumstances, most pivots would have drifted into obscurity.
He could have reached 1,000 points last weekend but it was perhaps typical Jantjies, as Handre Pollard stole the show, to let everybody wait another week. Of course, on a different day with his forwards in the ascendancy he could easily have reached that mark.
But then Jantjies’ career is not the stuff of manicured lawns and white picket fences. He has had to street-smart his way to where he is, but his achievements have not met the commensurate respect.
Let’s be clear, Jantjies reaching 1,000 Super Rugby points on Saturday will not make him the best flyhalf in SA, or the province for that matter, but it is an achievement worthy of respect.
Unfortunately, however, the Lions’ flyhalf has become SA rugby’s voodoo doll. It is a distraction he can do without. Then again, he wouldn’t be Jantjies if he admitted to feeling those pricks.