Elton Jantjies emerged as the Lion King at Ellis Park on Saturday, putting in a near-flawless performance for the Lions as they beat the Stormers 29-22.
It was a game that pitted South Africa’s two strongest Super Rugby competitors against each other and it didn’t fail to live up to the pre-match hype.
But it was the performance of Jantjies and the Lions’ replacement scrumhalf Faf de Klerk that was ultimately the difference between winning and losing.
The hosts dominated both possession and territory in the match, but the Stormers still had the lead five minutes from the break.
That’s when Jantjies truly entered the fray with his individual brilliance.
With the Stormers being forced to make almost twice as many tackles as their hosts (125 to the Lions’ 76), Jantjies decided it was better to go over his opposition’s rushing lines and put in a delightful chip which was gathered by one of his teammates before swinging the ball wide for Ruan Combrinck to dot down for the first try of the encounter.
That gave the Lions a 16-12 edge heading into the break.
It was clear that a moment of magic was needed to separate the two teams.
And two of them came from De Klerk. The little No.9 took a quick penalty tap to dart over the Stormers tryline after their defence was caught napping in the 58th minute (23-15).
Jantjies, though, wasn’t immune to the odd balls-up.
A clearance kick that failed to find touch allowed the Stormers to launch a counterattack that ultimately saw the Lions pivot plat op his gat after being sidestepped by Stormers replacement Siya Kolisi on his way to the tryline (23-22).
But as quickly as he gave them a sniff of a win, Jantjies then kicked another penalty before slotting home a drop-goal to give his team a seven-point lead.
De Klerk provided the final moment of magic when, as the Stormers were searching for a try that would level matters, he rushed up on Kobus van Wyk to make a tackle, steal the ball and kick it out for a win for the hosts.