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Elton Jantjies exclusive: 'Believe me, it's nothing like that'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Elton Jantjies has broken his silence on his recent exclusion from the Springboks, explaining that it was the suggestion of SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus that he should attend a rehabilitation centre in Cape Town instead of touring. The 32-year-old fly-half has been in the eye of a media storm ever since he and team dietician Zeenat Simjee were sent home from Buenos Aires amid allegations of an affair between the pair.

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The subsequent fallout resulted in Jantjies being excluded from the Springboks’ current four-Test tour in Europe, a trip that Simjee went working on while Jantjies spent a fortnight at the Harmony Clinic to treat his insomnia and take a complete break.

The optics suggest that Jantjies was being disciplined but he has instead explained his omission from the squad was part of the longer-term plan that he has agreed with Erasmus to ensure he can be at his best in 2023 and be in a position to make it back into the Springboks for their World Cup title defence in France.

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In a wide-ranging interview, Jantjies appeared on the latest edition of RugbyPass Offload in the company of presenter Marc Edwards, Leicester fly-half Freddie Burns and Glasgow back-rower Ryan Wilson. Asked if he could clear up the truth and explain how painful this recent period has been for him, Jantjies said: “I haven’t said a word so it [the media stories] is all speculative.

“It [the media commentary] doesn’t come from my mouth… but it is challenging when it comes to my family, when it comes to my mum and my brothers and my friends. I can see it touches them a little bit whenever they speak to me. It’s constant, this media opinion. I just tell them don’t get involved.

“For me personally, it is just to focus on my family, I have got a break and this is the reason why I am here, and then afterwards I will probably get back to rugby and that is the main two things I will stick with. I was in a facility in Cape Town just for like two weeks. I had a chat with Rassie and he told me he has got a spot where I can just switch off mentally and then afterwards I can get a break with my family.

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“My main thing was just to switch off from a psychological point of view, especially with all the media going on. And all the speculation, they keep on speculating until they probably want me to speak up but I don’t get involved in media stuff.”

Asked if he felt let down by the Springboks that his story has played out so publicly in the media, Jantjies defended his team. “No, we always had discussions. Actually, before they [the media] tried to publish something I got a phone call (from the Springboks) so I don’t think I was let down with anything.

“But I think this break came at the time that the whole media thing was on, so obviously it looks a bit different. It looks like I am out of the Springboks because of certain reasons but it’s not like that. I haven’t seen my family this whole year so me and Rassie had a chat and I agreed with him and so I have taken time off to spend with my family. It has been tough but I had to do it instead of going on tour because the following year is going to be a hectic year.”

Did the stay at the clinic help Jantjies more than he perhaps thought it might? “Well, I sleep better,” he quipped. “Me and my wife have been speaking about it quite a lot, she says you don’t switch off, you struggle sleeping because you are always with rugby… you watch games the whole time, you are training the whole time so when are you actually going to switch off? You take a sleeping tablet to sleep at night when there are games on.

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“As a fly-half, I believe playing Test rugby I need to be sleeping perfectly… It was a long stretch and I struggled to sleep, and I went there and for two weeks I was off sleeping tablets and I am still off sleeping tablets so it was quite good. But yeah, that’s not the main reason.

“The main reason was just to switch off from a public point of view because I have been followed by people, I have had media, journalists follow me, I have had private investigators follow me, I have a lot of things on my plate and it was quite scary for my wife.”

Did Erasmus help Jantjies a lot with what was planned? “Yeah, a big help, massive help. He took me there and we chatted and I said, ‘Coach, I think it is a great idea. Let’s do it’. From his perspective whatever he tells me I’ll do it 99.9 per cent. Hopefully, a lot of the boys can say the same things. He is a good friend for me and a good coach as well, he is very honest with me. I take his opinions in high regard.”

Switching to the negative social media that Jantjies has been on the receiving end of, how has he coped with the ordeal? “One of my friends called me yesterday and said it doesn’t matter what they say, they don’t know you as a person, they don’t know who you are… I have told my wife not to get caught up in it. She speaks to journalists in terms of she gives feedback and things like that and she is quite good at that but I don’t get involved.”

The last question asked about the recent controversy concerned the noise surrounding dietician Simjee returning to work with the Springboks while Jantjies hasn’t been involved. Was there any frustration over how this was perceived, that he had been left in the cold?

“The way it looks, it looks like that and it is obvious what people are going to say. It is an obvious thing to say, ‘Elton is out, she is in’, things like that but believe me, it’s nothing like that. Me and Rassie had a chat and we will stick to the plan for me to switch off and then get back to club rugby and then get into the Springboks squad again.”

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