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The 'mental health' reason why Springboks resisted Jantjies recall

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber has explained why he opted not to bring seasoned fly-half Elton Jantjies back into the fold this week despite the vacancy created at No10 following the concussion to Damian Willemse. South Africa are gunning to win The Rugby Championship title this Saturday when they face Argentina in Durban, but they will do so without having a specialist No10 in their team.

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They have instead opted to go into that crucial round six match with veteran utility back Frans Steyn chosen at fly-half in a Test match for the first time in 14 years rather than issuing a recall to the axed Jantjies, who was sent home from Argentina following the emergence of media reports about alleged misbehaviour in his private life.

Not since a June 2008 win over Italy in Cape Town has Steyn run onto the pitch for a Test match wearing the Springboks No10 but he has now been handed this responsibility with Willemse and Handre Pollard unavailable through injury and Jantjies remaining out of favour.

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Having named a starting XV on Tuesday that contained two changes from last Saturday’s victory in Buenos Aires, Steyn for Willemse and Pieter-Steph du Toit for the benched Franco Mostert, Nienaber was asked at his team announcement media briefing in Durban if he had considered the possibility of bringing Jantjies back into the team. Jantjies had been the second-half replacement for Pollard when he was injured versus the Wallabies on August 27.

“It would have been nice. However, for us, with all the mental health issues, mental health being such a big thing and all the external pressure on him, from a humane side it would have been unfair to get him back in the team,” explained Nienaber about this week’s Jantjies decision. “There would be a lot of external pressure on him and for us, the person comes first. It would have been unfair on him.”

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With Jantjies overlooked, it left the Springboks relying on Steyn to run out as the starting No10 with scrum-half Faf de Klerk doubling up as the reserve fly-half on a bench that contains just two backs – de Klerk and rookie winger Kurt-Lee Arendse, who is available again following his suspension for last month’s red card against the All Blacks.

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“He [Steyn] has played ten for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup and has also trained a lot at ten for us,” continued Nienaber. “The same is applicable to Faf, who is also covering fly-half, and I guess when you lose a couple of tens, that is where you sit. Frans covers the same positions as Damian, but with ten years of more experience.”

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