For the bulk of a career that spans more than a decade‚ Lions’ captain Elton Jantjies has been in the business of fronting up.
Keeping teammates focused and chins up during a pandemic in which some of them were personally touched are the latest matters he has had to confront as the leader of the team.
After six members of the Lions contracted Covid-19 the team had to pull their laager into an even tighter formation, but, as ever, Jantjies took it in his stride.
“It was interesting‚ but as a group we discussed this during lockdown‚” Jantjies said about the challenges that come with positive Covid-19 tests in the camp.
“Those questions came up before the season started‚ we were open about the discussion. It’s real‚ you have to accept and deal with it. You have to be open-minded and it is going to take a squad effort during this period because you never know when you are going to pick it up.
“It is going to come. I’m not hoping for it for any union, but you have to have a plan when it does. I believe our medical team is world class and I believe in our doctor since I started here as a 17-year-old. I trust him.”
There had been early acceptance in the Lions’ camp that they need to roll with the punches and make the best of a far from ideal situation. When their game against the Cheetahs was called off they were still able to maintain their focus on their campaign.
“When we had those cases and the game got cancelled we had the Thursday and Friday to prepare and invest in our game plan‚” said Jantjies.
“We were actually training and it was only the game that got cancelled. We had the Sunday off and got good prep on the Monday for the Griquas game. The boys showed character and professionalism in that week‚” said the flyhalf of a build-up to a match in which the Lions romped home 61-31.
He said the pandemic has brought fresh perspective and has instilled in players a deeper appreciation for living their dream.
“Just to have the opportunity and freedom to play rugby again is special. It was taken away from us and sometimes you do take it for granted as a player.
“We need to keep each other accountable for that. You never know when it will be your last. That was a big scare for us. We didn’t know when rugby was going to restart.
“Now we see growth in terms of mindset‚ player development and the younger players are taking ownership of their responsibilities in the team. There are individuals who came out and stepped up‚” said Jantjies.
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