Battle of the 10s: Barrett v Jantjies
Talk about striking when the iron is hot, the case with the Hurricanes’ form. Currently on a 7-win streak, despite an international 3 week break in between, they look like a different animal altogether. Contributing a whole lot to this sturdy and consistent showing has been the play of their first-five, Beauden Barrett.
In the June internationals he was blinding coming off the bench, with his speed and decision-making resulting in strong finishes to games for the ABs in the first two tests. He has only grown from that and has been playing like a man possessed.
On the other hand, the surprise package that is the Lions, have their own in Elton Jantjies. The pivot, has been in similarly sensational form. One of the better tries of last weekend was when he got the ball in his own 22, broke the line swiftly on what the Highlanders thought would be a typical exit set, a kick for touch; his acceleration got him all the way to the halfway line where he put Skosan through to score a decisive try in the tie.
The ease with which they breached the Highlanders’ sturdy defense has been a feature and highlight of their desire to move the ball in a constant pursuit to get over the advantage line, all season.
Explosive acceleration has been a common feature to facilitate the running rugby, a trait exhibited by both Barrett and Jantjies. They also have been good off the boot, finding opportunities to carve out yardage from precise kicks into the oppositon half. Both have also not been shy attempting the cross kick to stretch the defense and create opportunites to score.
As an opposing number 10, playing against someone who is a triple threat with kicking, ball carrying and good passing, you have to be on your toes for the full 80.
That’s where I believe the game plans of both teams are absolutely crucial. There’s no one way, or one person, that can nullify the threat or influence of either flyhalf. It will come down to how the teams set themselves up defensively: quick line speed and attempt deny spaces in behind.
Missed tackles by the opposition is a feature NZ sides exploit with devastating ruthlessness, but from the evidence of the Lions’ play this whole year, they are neither a typical South African side. They have a traditionally strong forward pack, but run the ball and aren’t scared to be expansive. This has set a solid platform for Jantjies and the irrepressible 21-year-old Rohan Janse van Rensburg at inside centre.