United Rugby Championship: Herschel Jantjies ready to shine for Stormers

Stormers and Springboks scrum-half Herschel Jantjies is delighted to be fit again and determined to take his game up a notch during the rest of 2023.

Jantjies spent the last month on the sidelines with a rib injury but made a try-scoring return after coming off the bench for the Cape Town-based franchise during their home victory over Clermont Auvergne in the Champions Cup last week.

Key player for the Stormers

The 26-year-old was a key player during the Stormers’ victorious 2021/22 United Rugby Championship (URC) campaign, but injuries have limited him to just five appearances in that competition this season.

“Missing out on a few games at home and on tour due to injury has been really frustrating,” Jantjies told the Stormers’ official website. “In saying that, it gave me some time to reflect and make sure I am still on the right path.

“Last week’s game was very special and I think the way we came back from our first half performance shows what we stand for as the DHL Stormers and hopefully says something about the standards that we set for ourselves.”

Jantjies will start amongst the replacements when the Stormers resume their URC campaign against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday, as the champions aim to return to winning ways in the tournament after losing their previous match against Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun on January 8.

With the likes of captain Steven Kitshoff and fellow Springbok prop Frans Malherbe not included in the Stormers squad for the trip to Ulster, Jantjies will have a key role to play as one of the senior players in a relatively inexperienced team which includes youngsters like Suleiman Hartzenberg and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, who are aged 19 and 20 respectively.

“I think with the long season, it’s good for the boys [Kitshoff and Malherbe] to get a bit of a breather! We need them firing when it’s crunch time,” he said.

“I really enjoy the challenge of leadership, it’s always great to contribute in whatever way possible. I am in a very fortunate position and am definitely very blessed to be seen in a leadership position, and my number one priority is to lead with my performances and the way that I carry myself between the four lines. The rest of the stuff is purely a bonus.”

The previous match between the Stormers and Ulster was last season’s tightly contested semi-final in Cape Town, when an injury-time conversion from Manie Libbok sealed a memorable win for the home side.

Jantjies expects a tougher challenge for the Stormers in their first visit to Kingspan Stadium.

“Ulster will be a different monster in the sense that they are at home and are used to the conditions and the fact that they are playing in front of what will hopefully be a packed home crowd for them,” he added.

Eyeing World Cup spot with Springboks

Although Jantjies was delighted to cross the whitewash against Clermont, he is determined to grow his game as he aims to be included in South Africa‘s squad when they defend their title at the Rugby World Cup in France later this year.

“Tries are always fun and contributing in any way possible is what it’s all about,” he said. “It was a step in the right direction and for me, it’s always been about chasing myself and trying to improve and adapt.

“Sometimes things don’t go your way, but I believe that if I keep working hard and keep on trying, things will eventually go my way. The goal now is to work even harder and to make sure my name is with no doubt on that World Cup list.”

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