A TALE OF TWO FLY­HALVES

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

We can’t get away from it and we can’t ig­nore it ... Satur­day’s Su­per Rugby semi-fi­nal be­tween the Lions and Hur­ri­canes at El­lis Park pits ar­guably the com­pe­ti­tion’s best No 10s against each other for the first time this year. So, how do El­ton Jan­tjies and Beau­den Bar­rett match-up ahead of the big game? Rugby writer JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN gives his view on the two fly­halves

El­ton Jan­tjies

THE LIONS man has been out­stand­ing in 2017, plain and sim­ple! For­get the fact he had a bad day at the of­fice last Satur­day – those one-off aber­ra­tions hap­pen to ev­ery­one ev­ery now and again and those sug­gest­ing he is in a “slump” have ob­vi­ously not watched him week-in and week-out pro­duce the goods for his team.

Jan­tjies has shone at home and away and has played with a maturity he seemed to be lack­ing last sea­son. And it’s not only for the Lions that he has stood tall and di­rected those around him; he has done it at Test level as well – some­thing he didn’t do a year ago. This week­end’s match though is with­out ques­tion Jan­tjies’ big­gest test of the year – as he comes up against a New Zealand team for the first time and goes head to head with ar­guably the slick­est No 10 in the game in Beau­den Bar­rett.

Jan­tjies’ chal­lenge is to show he can de­liver the big pres­sure per­for­mance, with the op­po­si­tion in his face and cut­ting off his op­tions at the back, but there’s no rea­son why he won’t pros­per. Af­ter all, he was one of the chief de­stroy­ers of the Cru­saders and High­landers in the play­offs last year, so why not now in 2017, too?

He has got ev­ery trick in the book and he’ll need to use all of them if his team are to tri­umph, and that in­cludes his goal-kick­ing which let him down last week­end. Jan­tjies is a class act and what an op­por­tu­nity awaits for him to si­lence ev­ery critic out there.

Beau­den Bar­rett

THE WORLD’S lead­ing fly­half? Quite pos­si­bly. Bar­rett has been on top of his game for some time now and it’s no sur­prise some have ranked him ahead of the great Dan Carter as the best New Zealand have pro­duced at No 10 in the last num­ber of years.

The Canes fly­half pro­duced a mas­ter­ful per­for­mance in the wet and cold of Welling­ton in the fi­nal last year (against the Lions), but he’ll be even more dan­ger­ous in the dry and warm high­veld sun. There’s just no truth in the no­tion the Ki­wis don’t like the thin air up north ... they’ve al­ways pros­pered on the high­veld and love good con­di­tions to play in as much as the South Africans do. Bar­rett is his team’s key man. Ev­ery­thing goes through him and it’s his dis­tri­bu­tion skills, his short passes, kick-passes to the wings and snip­ing breaks that make him so dan­ger­ous. Try­ing to neu­tralise him isn’t easy be­cause he brings so much. So if the Lions are to have a chance of get­ting past the only Kiwi side they failed to beat last sea­son (on two oc­ca­sions) they’re go­ing to have to get un­der Bar­rett’s skin and put pres­sure on him; he’s shown he is prone to mis­takes when things don’t go his way.

An added ad­van­tage for Bar­rett is that he doesn’t kick at goal any­more (his brother Jordie does that now) which means he can fo­cus solely on di­rect­ing his team at 10. Like the chal­lenge fac­ing Jan­tjies, this will be just as big a test for Bar­rett.

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