THERE is not a Super Rugby coach in the country who would not walk barefoot across a field of burning coals to have two Springbok flyhalfves in their squad.
But for Lions coach Johan Ackermann, having Elton Jantjies and Marnitz Boshoff competing for one jersey has caused more than a few selection headaches recently.
Jantjies rolled into town from Japan earlier this week with ambitions of reclaiming his spot at pivot that was stolen so sensationally by Boshoff last year.
Under similar circumstances at the start of last year’s season, Ackermann started a half-boiled Jantjies at flyhalf, who had returned from injury, against the Sharks in Durban and pushed Boshoff to No15. In a match they lost 37-23, the Lions only really began playing once Boshoff replaced Jantjies at flyhalf in the second half, but by then the Sharks were unassailably ahead on points.
Ackermann learnt a hard lesson in the fine demands of squad selection that day and Boshoff finished the rest of the season as the first-choice flyhalf.
Now that the hero of 2011 has returned from the NTT Shining Arcs, the Jantjies-Boshoff battle has resumed in earnest.
“Elton trained with us from Monday and he’s looking good,” said Ackermann. “We have two experienced Springbok players in our ranks with his return from Japan, who will both be challenging for the No10 jersey. I know Marnitz can play fullback and he’s done well for us in the past in that position but he will be competing for the flyhalf position this season.
“Elton has also come back from Japan looking sharp, plus we have the youngster Jaco van der Walt in the mix as well.”
Both flyhalves give Ackermann good options for when he wants to vary his game plan, with the bonus of never being at risk of losing too many kickable points.
Further down the backline there are more selection posers ahead of the start against the Hurricanes at Ellis Park next Friday.
Howard Mnisi, who finished the Currie Cup season as the most stylish inside centre in the country, will compete with Alwyn Hollenbach for the No12 jersey.
Hollenbach had a torrid time with injuries last year but with Stokkies Hanekom being considered as an outside centre this year, his Super Rugby experience could give him the edge over Mnisi.
“Howard is looking great at the moment but he will have to compete with Hollenbach for his place,” said Ackermann.
“He (Mnisi) finished the Currie Cup as the leading inside centre in my opinion but he will have to repeat that form to force a regular start in the team.
“We see Stokkies (who played at inside centre in the Currie Cup) as a No13 this year and he’ll have real competition in Lionel Mapoe for the position. But these are all fantastic options to have in a squad.”
Elton (Jantjies) has also come back from Japan looking sharp plus we have the youngster Jaco van der Walt in the mix as well