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It's Lions v Stormers, not Elton v Damian, says Jantjies

It's Lions v Stormers, not Elton v Damian, says Jantjies
Saturday's battle between Elton Jantjies and Damian Willemse has got rugby fans salivating. Picture: Backpagepix
Damian Willemse possesses a strong running game. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Damian Willemse possesses a strong running game. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - Elton Jantjies is clear about one thing: tomorrow’s Super Rugby showdown with the Stormers at Ellis Park is not about him going up against Damian Willemse.

Throughout his career, Jantjies has had to field questions ahead of big Super Rugby games and Test matches about his opposite number, be it Morné Steyn, Pat Lambie or Beauden Barrett.

More recently it’s been his “match-up” with the likes of Handre Pollard, Curwin Bosch and, obviously, Willemse, that have got the fans talking.

Jantjies was having none of it, again, yesterday, when he addressed the media in Joburg.

“I’m going to answer like I always do, and that’s not going to change. It’s not about me as an individual, it’s not about Elton versus Damian ... it’s the Lions versus the Stormers.

“We’re just going to go out there and have fun. We have another opportunity to play the game we love. It’s special. We’ll give it everything and they’ll give it everything and the game of rugby will win.”

While Jantjies may not like talking about individuals, he knows the Stormers are a team to be taken very seriously, after they beat the Hurricanes and Bulls in rounds one and two and have yet to concede a point in the competition.

“The Stormers have some good momentum going, having won their first two games. They’ve got certain strengths, like a few Boks who’ve been through a lot of scenarios where pressure is at play, but we also have our strengths. It’s going to be a special occasion.”

While the Stormers team is packed with powerful, experienced campaigners, World Cup scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies will miss the game through injury, joining Bongi Mbonambi on the sidelines. The Lions captain and No 10 said the visitors to Joburg would miss his namesake.

“Herschel’s got X-factor, and it’ll be a blow to them,” said the Lions flyhalf.

Meanwhile, Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen has made just one change to his starting team from the side that battled past the Reds last weekend.

In the centres, Manuel Rass replaces Duncan Matthews, while on the bench Wandisile Simelane comes in for his first appearance of the campaign.

But the big news is up-front where Van Rooyen has stuck with the same starters from last week’s game against the Reds for the Stormers visit. This despite the Lions pack taking something of a beating at times at the hands of the Reds.

“It’s not yet time (to make changes),” said Van Rooyen yesterday.

“We’ve been growing. It’s been better week after week, and to be fair, we didn’t get much unit time in the last two weeks. This was our first full week (of training) and after two proper sessions, it’s another opportunity (for these players),” said Van Rooyen.

The good news though is seasoned loose-forward Willem Alberts has recovered from a bicep problem and will play off the bench.

“His X-factor is his physicality. He’ll also bring a calm head (to proceedings) having played in a lot of games like the one coming up this weekend. He’ll also bring some energy to the match,” said Van Rooyen.

The match kicks off at 3.05pm.

@jacq_west