SPRINGBOK flyhalf Elton Jantjies may get a fresh chance to prove his worth when the Boks take on England at Twickenham on Saturday in the final Test on their year-end tour in one of two changes to coach Heyneke Meyer’s bench.
Meyer on Wednesday proved his faith that the starting 15 — which beat Scotland 21-10 last week — would deliver their third successive victory on tour, but Jantjies was the surprise inclusion among the replacements, at the expense of Morné Steyn.
The other change on the bench was tighthead prop Pat Cilliers slotting in for CJ van der Linde, who picked up a hamstring injury.
Golden Lions loosehead prop JC Janse van Rensburg was called up to the touring squad as a replacement for Van der Linde, but with Gurthro Steenkamp starting and Heinke van der Merwe named as the replacement loosehead prop, the Lions skipper will undoubtedly learn much about the Springbok set-up in the next few days.
Fortunately for Meyer, star wing JP Pietersen and Steenkamp recovered from their niggling injuries, which allowed them to retain their starting places. Their vast experience will be invaluable against the home team, who are under pressure to bounce back from their defeat against Australia last week.
Commenting on his team on Wednesday, Meyer said: "It’s great to be able to field an unchanged side. We’ve been able to show some consistency in selection on this tour and that is a good thing.
"The players have worked extremely hard on the training field and it wasn’t easy to select the match 23 for each of the three Tests, but I’m happy we managed to stick to player combinations."
Of Jantjies’s inclusion, Meyer hoped the player would gain invaluable experience from playing in the tough northern hemisphere conditions. Interestingly, Jantjies travelled to the UK on the Springboks’ 2010 year-end tour, but he only played against the Barbarians.
"The plan was always to give Elton a run on the tour," said Meyer "He showed earlier in the season that he can play Test rugby, and it will be good for his development as a player to experience the conditions and to play in front of a big crowd such as that at Twickenham."
Saturday’s clash will mark a significant occasion for Bok skipper Jean de Villiers, as he will surpass injured wing Bryan Habana’s 83 Tests, making him the most experienced player in Meyer’s expanded group and the fifth-most capped Springbok in history. Former Bok skipper John Smit (111), Victor Matfield (110), Percy Montgomery (102) and Joost van der Westhuizen (89) respectively head the list of the most capped national players.
"I’m chuffed for Jean," said Meyer. "He took over the captaincy in a challenging year and has been a rock in our team. The fact that he has played in every Test this season, and finished all of them, is testimony to his resilience and work ethic. "
Zane Kirchner; JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Francois Hougaard; Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw; Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Gurthrö Steenkamp. Replacements: Schalk Brits, Heinke van der Merwe, Pat Cilliers, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee, Elton Jantjies, Jaco Taute, Lwazi Mvovo.