Young Stormers scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies looks like the real deal
The Stormers have had little to cheer in recent weeks after two defeats in New Zealand‚ but the emergence of scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies has been a positive development.
Jantjies‚ 22‚ was thrust into the starting role when veteran Jano Vermaak was injured in round two of Super Rugby.
In a situation where he had to perform and conduct the team from halfback sooner than coach Robbie Fleck would’ve liked‚ Jantjies has made the step up.
His natural pace and eye for the gap are obvious strengths‚ but over the weeks his service has become crisper‚ his communication more pronounced and his control impressive.
Defensively too‚ the diminutive halfback (1.67m and 75kg) has been superb.
Two try-saving tackles against the Jaguares at Newlands last month spared his team a home defeat.
There is something about Jantjies and his progress at a time when the Springboks are still searching for their next long-term scrumhalf is fortunate.
Coming to prominence at a time when the Bok No 9 jersey is far from settled is good for him and SA Rugby and there is no problem with his confidence either.
“In my mind‚ I have always worked hard so that if this opportunity comes around I could be ready for it‚” the former Paul Roos pupil said from Australia where the Stormers are preparing to for the Reds.
“I’m enjoying the game time I’m getting. It has been good for me and I’m definitely growing. Hopefully‚ I can get more time as the season goes on.”
The fact that he has coped well and looked impressive in New Zealand‚ despite a 34-28 loss to the Hurricanes and a 24-9 setback against the Blues‚ points to his potential.
But Jantjies is also the first to admit that he has been operating behind a good pack.
Even so‚ the New Zealand experience has been eye-opening for the youngster. Against the Kiwis‚ he endured first hand experience of the pace and pressure they exert at rucks‚ often illegally.
“There is definitely less time for scrumhalves in this competition – this was especially the case against the Blues – and more pressure at the rucks‚” Jantjies said diplomatically despite being played without the ball several times in that match.
“But we obviously train for those things‚ and my role is to get there and get the ball out as quickly as possible and try not to let anything affect me.
“I would say I’m an instinctive player‚’ he said. “Our forwards have created the gaps for me because we have such a mobile pack.
"They make my job easier. I’m just fortunate to see that gap and go for it.”
He is developing nicely but is realistic enough to know that his game needs refinement and improvement.
“I’ve been working hard on my kicking‚ especially box kicks‚” Jantjies said. “It’s not where I want it to be or where it needs to be.
"There has definitely been huge growth in that aspect of my game. I’m working hard on it‚ and it certainly will become one of my strengths.”