Choosing The Next Springbok Flyhalf

As was expected Allister Coetzee has been appointed the new Springbok coach, should it not have been Johan Ackermann? Just asking, taking nothing away from Coetzee since he has a superb record with the Stormers, I just personally believe Ackermann would have made for a better coach what he did with the Lions is superb, anyway back to the question at hand, who will be the next Springbok flyhalf?

The number 10 jersey has always been a position which has plagued South African rugby ever since Naas Botha’s retirement. Numerous Springbok flyhalves have come and gone over the years none of which will really go down in the South African rugby annuals as a great player.

Rugby has evolved and the flyhalf now plays even a more pivotal role in the outcome of the match. Long gone are the days where the flyhalf’s primary objective was to kick for post and field position ala Morne Steyn.

Coetzee’s first assignment as Springbok coach will be to study the current crop of South African flyhalves currently playing Super Rugby and try to find his “go to” flyhalf, the fact that most of the country’s best flyhalves are plagued with injuries also does not aid his cause.

Due to the uncertainty of overseas selection policy, we will not consider any overseas players in this post.

First and foremost Coetzee will be looking for a flyhalf whom he can trust and stick with, with the ultimate goal of developing him and taking him to the 2019 World Cup. Coetzee will be looking for a young but experienced flyhalf.

Finding a Springbok Flyhalf For 2016

Let us consider the above statement and look at the current crop of Flyhalf which Coetzee currently has at his disposal.

Elton Jantjies (Lions)

No surprises here, Elton Jantjies is the overwhelming favourite to become the next Springbok flyhalf. But we would like to ask the question, can you trust Jantjies at the helm of arguably the most important position on a rugby field?

You see, as good as Jantjies is, he also has some serious flaws in his game and you certainly don’t need to be an expert to figure out what his flaws are, in case you have not noticed here are they:

Anonymous when the forward pack is struggling –

Jantjies is superb with quick ball, an interesting fact by SANZAR rugby statistics points out that the Lions are among the top 3 Super Rugby teams in terms of ruck recycle speed i.e. clearing the ball from the base of the ruck.

That is all good, but have a look at the games the Lions have lost in Super Rugby 2016, specifically focus on Elton Jantjies, he was poor and largely anonymous throughout those games.

The reality is as notorious as the Springboks are for fielding large and physical forward packs, they WILL NOT always dominate the breakdown situation. Slow ball against teams like the ALL Blacks and Australia is a common occurrence, our primary concern with Jantjies at flyhalf  is, what will happen when the Boks starts struggling in the loose? Is he going to start forcing passes, play too deep, start making poor decisions, these are all things which Jantjies have done when his pack has struggled, and he doesn’t get front foot ball.

Big Match Temperament (BMT)

Another major concern is that Jantjies tend to choke when it comes to key moments in a match, there are countless times when Jantjies has missed a sitter to kick for the lead in the final minutes, or when he has made a critical error when the game is on the line.

When it comes to BMT some players have it and others don’t, it is NOT something which can be coached and sadly for Jantjies it seems that he sorely lacks BMT. As a Springbok fan ask yourself the following question – will you really trust Jantjies to kick for the winning goal against the All Blacks?

Defence

While no flyhalf is renowned for their defensive capabilities and it will just be plain cruel to crucify Jantjies over his defensive capabilities, we have noticed that teams tend to target the Lions 10 channel more than any other teams 10 channel. The fact is, opposition teams know Jantjies is not great terrible on defence and it is something opposition teams constantly try to explode.Jantjies defensive stats for Super Rugby 2016 reads as follow:
Out of 43 tackles made until this far Jantjies has missed 20 of those, that means Jantjies nearly miss every 2nd tackle! Those are Super Rugby statistics, international statistics might read even worse for Jantjies should he become the starting flyhalf!

Elton Jantjies – Conclusion

With all the above considered, it is important to note that Jantjies also has some superb attributes to his game and is a phenomenal attacking flyhalf.

We can make an equally long list of what Jantjies does right. While we certainly don’t want to bad month Jantjies, we do need to give constructive criticism and as a professional athlete, you need to be able to take it on the chin.

For as much as Jantjies does right we simply don’t trust him behind a struggling pack, and thus, we will NOT include him in our Springbok squad.

Patrick Lambie (Sharks)

This is a tough one, Lambie who at the start of the season was largely tipped as the frontrunner for the Springbok flyhalf jersey, injured himself in a warmup game against Toulon, being ruled out for 12-weeks with a dislocated shoulder which means he missed a large part of the tournament, but is hopefully set to return this week (05 May 2016, Super Rugby round 11)
The tragic thing is. Lambie, before his injury, was playing some of the best rugby of his career, continuing to improve game upon game. One can only hope that Lambie’s form will continue as he makes his return from injury, and a large part of his Springbok aspirations’ will depend on how he returns from injury.

Lambie’s Strengths

Youth & Experience –

At 25, Lambie has played more than 50 test for the Springboks, having made his debut in 2010 when he was only 20 years old. Patrick Lambie has a wealth of experience, for such a young player, and will only continue to grow.Come Japan 2019 Lambie will not even be 30 yet

Big Match Temperament (Cool as a cucumber)

Lambie’s strongest point is perhaps his cool head and big match temperament. Who will ever forget that kick in extra time against the All Blacks from 55-metres out, to win the match for the Springboks? With 60’000 eyes firmly fixed on Lambie, and a Springbok victory resting on his young shoulders, he made it look like he was playing ball in his backyard, cool as a cucumber. Here it is again, try not to get goosebumps!

Lambie’s Weaknesses

Attacking Play

We are not saying Lambies is a bad attacking flyhalf, and he is certainly not scared to take the ball up for a run or two.

With that being said, we are not yet convinced that Lambie is a proper playmaker, setting players into gaps, floating out superb passes and throwing a dummy or two to get over the line ala Dan Carter. However, the man is only 25 and has plenty of time to improve that aspect of his game

Patrick Lambie – Conclusion

A good goal kicker, a leader, and having superb BMT, Lambie surely does make a strong claim for the Springbok 10.

If we were Allister Coetzee would we select Lambie as the starting flyhalf? Most definitely we are big Lambie fans however, it will depend how he return from injury, as form can often be poor after such a long layoff from the game.

Handre Pollard (Bulls)

Another superb player who was a strong front runner for the Springbok starting flyhalf role at the start of the season, Pollards Springbok aspirations came to a freakish end.

As most people know Pollard got injured before the Super Rugby even started, and got ruled out for an entire year! Thus, we won’t dig too deep into Pollard as we will more than likely won’t see him in action this year.

Because of Pollard’s long layoff it means that Coetzee will be forced to pick a different flyhalf for the 2016 season, whomever Allister Coetzee picks for the starting role, if he (the flyhalf) makes a statement and manage to impress, Pollard might have a hard time getting back in the Bok setup.

Whatever the case will be it is a tragic situation for Pollard, but sure as hell will be interesting to see how things will play out, a little competition is always good!

We would also like to point out that there have been whispers, by some pundits, that Pollard is overrated and perhaps brought into international rugby too soon, while playing for the wrong franchise, the Bulls, who many say has a tendency to coach all attacking abilities out of players.

Do we think Pollard is overrated? At his pinnacle of his career, which was during the 2015 World Cup, he was good, but not superb. He is still young and has plenty of room for improvement but all and all he is certainly one of the best flyhalves in South Africa.

Jean-Luc du Plessis

Coming from a long line of rugby relatives, being the son of the legendary Carel du Plessis, Jean-Luc certainly has the correct DNA makeup to become one of the greats.

However in the international rugby arena relatives mean nothing and it is a level playing field (except for Transformation, however, that is a different story.)

Jean-Luc came through the system, which is always something we look for when selecting a flyhalf, he played craven week u/13 and u/19 in 2014 Jen-Luc was selected for the Baby Boks (u/20’s)

 

Jean-Luc made his debut for the Stormers in round 7 being the Stormers 3rs choice flyhalf, after both the Stormers starting flyhalfs picked up serious injuries ruling them out for most of the season.

Despite Jean-Luc being only the 3rd choice for the Stormers, getting an unexpected Super Rugby call-up. Jean-Luc, where many players would have crumbled under the pressure, he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

We can’t stress enough how impressed we were with the 6 matches Jean-Luc has played for the Stormers this far. We believe he will leave deep footsteps in South African rugby at only 22-years old he will just get better and better.

Jean-Luc du Plessis – Strengths

Goal Kicking & Big Match Temperament

Jean-Luc is an excellent goal kicker, he could easily have been forgiven for missing his first few kicks on Super Rugby coming in halfway through the season as the 3rd choice flyhalf, yet he has kicked 21/25 of his penalties and conversions at a success rate of 81.8%, which is proof of Jean-Luc du Plessis big match temperament. We keep hammering on about BMT since it is such an important characteristic of a flyhalf.

Attacking Play, ability to set backline on fire

As good as Jean-Luc du Plessis goal kicking is his attacking ability is equally good. Jean-Luc is an excellent attacking player which unfortunately does not play for a very attacking orientated team (the Stormers…no offence Stormers fans)

The proof, of just how good Jean-Luc is on attack, is in the pudding, or rather in the statistics. When comparing Jean-Luc against the current best flyhalf in South Africa, Elton Jantjies you get a very interesting picture, which emphasises our above point.

Jean-Luc vs Elton Jantjies

Jean-Luc du Plessis has played 325-minutes of rugby in 6 games. Elton Jantjies has played 686-minutes in 9 matches when you compare their stats Jean-Luc comes out on top in many of those statistics.

Note: We will multiply Jean-Luc statistics by 2 where appropriate since Elton Jantjies has just about played double the amount of Super Rugby in 2016.

jeanLuc vs Elton Jantjies

JeanLuc vs Elton Jantjies general statistics

jean-luc-duplessis-vs-jantjies-defence

Jean-Luc du Plessis vs Elton Jantjiesdefence

jean vs jantjies kicking

Jean vs Jantjies Kicking Stats

As you can see from the above image taken from SANZAR official super rugby statistics website you will notice that:

Jean-Luc & Jantjies (who is considered the best flyhalf in South Africa currently) are pretty much tied up on all major statistics with Jean-Luc du Plessis actually topping Elton Jantjies in certain areas!

Also, the Statistics points out what we mentioned in the start of the post, Elton Jantjies is extremely poor on defence having missed 20 out of 43 tackles that means Jantjies pretty much miss every 2nd tackle!

Again we are not hating or bad mouthing Elton Jantjies we are simply pointing out how good Jean-Luc Du Plessis is and that Jantjies might just be slightly overrated.

Conclusion – Who Should Allister Coetzee Chose For Springbok Flyhalf?

Picking a Springbok flyhalf will certainly not be an easy task for Allister Coetzee with injuries to key players while having to put trust in new players.

Had we been the Springbok coach, we would do the following, remember we are considering Pollard is ruled out for the year:

  • Providing Patrick Lambie is healthy and has regained form, Lambie will be our starting flyhalf, with Elton Jantjies his backup.
  • If Lambie has not regained form we will not force him in the Springbok squad, we will then start Jean-Luc du Plessis with Jantjies as his backup. This might be seen as a controversial move but we believe throwing Jean-Luc in the deep end will only benefit him in the long run, he has proven he has the cool head, and big match temperament to handle pressure situations.

We would like to conclude by saying flyhalf might yet again present a problem for the Springboks this year, many people are screaming Jantjies however we disagree with that statement and to be brutally honest we don’t believe Jantjies is Springbok material. Whatever happen and regardless of who gets chosen, we are in for a very interesting period in South African rugby.

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