Springbok rugby fans have a new hero, and it’s tough not to get a little carried away by the early success of scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies.
Two tries on his debut against Australia, including an instinctive snipe down the blindside, was followed up with a superb last-gasp effort against the All Blacks, and he seems to bring a new sense of urgency to the Springbok attack.
We know that Faf de Klerk started off superbly for the Boks, and it now looks like Rassie Erasmus finally has depth in a key position ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.
Whilst he’s a relatively new name to many rugby fans, the 23-year-old has long been heralded by those who know him as a special talent.
64-year-old Christopher Jephtas, who was Jantjies’ primary school coach and teacher at P.C. Petersen in Kylemore, outside Stellenbosch. In 2010, Jephtas was determined to see young Herschel succeed, and he detailed what came next in an interview with Sport24:
While Jantjies had been accepted to Paarl Gimnasium, sending him there was not an option for his parents Sammy and Adeline.
The Jantjies’ have lived in their Kylemore home “forever”. It is where Herschel grew up, and where he still lives today. The family got by just fine, but private school money is a different level of financial demand. Most parents would agree.
So, after consulting with Sammy and Adeline, Christopher Jephtas [below] set about knocking the door down to get young Herschel Jantjies into a school that could accommodate and develop his rugby potential.
Jephtas is still rather vague on exactly how he managed to get the job done, but one chat with then-headmaster Jannie van der Westhuizen was it all took and Jantjies was enrolled into Paul Roos that week.
“I asked the secretary to phone the principal and I saw him at 15:00 that same day,” Jephtas recalls.
When he arrived at the school, all Jephtas was armed with was a team photograph of the Boland U-13 Craven Week that included Jantjies.
Jephtas recalls fondly how the young Jantjies was worried that they had arrived underprepared. One team photo, Jantjies was concerned, was not enough evidence of his ability.
“Sir, now I am bringing you a piece of gold!”
Thankfully, the powers that be at Paul Roos were convinced, and their faith was repaid when Jantjies became the school’s 54th Springbok.
Watching his former protégé’s debut was an emotional experience for Jephtas, and he hopes that the number nine can keep his feet on the ground:
“It was an emotional experience. It doesn’t happen to everybody,” he says.
“There were many other players that I coached, but they didn’t believe in themselves and then many times the parents didn’t support them. That is very important.”
…”He’s such a wonderful person and everybody likes him … he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”
If that means scoring tries and changing the momentum of the game, then we’re all on board that train.
For an in-depth look at why Jantjies has a habit of being in the right place at the right time, see this excellent analysis by Craig Lewis on SA Rugby Mag.
When you’ve managed to catch All Black legend Aaron Smith off guard with your support-running lines, you know you’re doing something right.
Fine, we’ll watch that cracker of a try one more time:
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