All eyes on Elton
LIONS flyhalf Elton Jantjies will be under close scrutiny when the Johannesburg side takes on Western Province in a Currie Cup clash at Ellis Park tomorrow.
Jantjies, who was culled from the Springbok squad for the tour to Argentina, can consider himself unlucky that he was not given a fair chance in the national setup.
He was on the bench for the third test against England in Port Elizabeth in June, but never made it onto the field, and then missed out on selection for the match 22 in last week's Four Nations opener against Argentina at Newlands.
Then he was dropped altogether.
With Cheetahs' 20-year-old flyhalf sensation Johan Goosen returning to action after nearly four months out of the game with a shoulder injury this weekend, competition for a place in the Bok squad just became harder for Jantjies.
It's no secret that South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer is a huge Goosen fan, and the only way Jantjies is going to remind the coach of his abilities is to keep producing quality performances when he has the chance.
The match against WP has a further juicy subplot in that Jantjies is on the radar of the Cape side. WP coach Allister Coetzee was interested to learn Jantjies had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for the duration of the Super 15 if the Lions were not involved.
And they're not, after being formally relegated by the South African Rugby Union's general council last week.
So, while he tries to ensure that WP lose, Jantjies' every move will be watched with more interest than usual from the visiting coach's box. Coetzee knows that, for the Stormers to take the step up from very good Super 15 side to champions, players of Jantjies' calibre in such a key position could provide the final piece of his puzzle.
There is still great value attached to the Currie Cup, but its primary function, rightly or wrongly, is for top sides to produce players capable of lifting their game to the next level.
With six teams in the Premier Division, and just four semifinal places on offer, there is scope for some defeats.
The Lions and WP have one defeat and one win each so far this season.
The Blue Bulls host the Sharks at Loftus, hoping they will be able to put a full-strength team on the field after flu decimated the squad this week.
At one stage, nine players were in bed and training was affected dramatically.
The Sharks have had some problems of their own.
Coach John Plumtree is battling for cover at hooker, after Craig Burden was added to the Springbok squad following Bismarck du Plessis' season-ending knee injury.
The Durban side is undefeated this season after good wins over WP and the Lions, and is running high on confidence. The Bulls will be up against it.
Griquas, the only winless team left in the competition, will be aiming to rectify that situation when they host the Cheetahs in a big derby game in Kimberley tomorrow.
Goosen's return is the big talking point and there will be some interested observers from Argentina.