The scrumhalf, who hails from Kylemore in the Cape Winelands, was one of the stars of UWC’s 2017 campaign, scoring two tries in a 45-2 thrashing of FNB UFH in the final.
Coached by the late Chester Williams, Udubs earned promotion to the Varsity Cup in 2018 and have not looked back since.
“It was amazing working with Chester,” says Jantjies. “I learned so much from him. He and [assistant coach] Bolla Conradie threw me a rugby lifeline.
“Playing for UWC was a blessing,” he adds. “Many players in provincial setup may see it as a downgrade, but for me, it was sort of a blessing in disguise.”
Jantjies father, Sammy, says UWC – and the FNB Varsity Shield – gave Herschel “his time to shine”.
“It was really a life-changing opportunity for him," he adds. "He was looking for sufficient game time to show what he has to offer, and this is what UWC gave him.”
Jantjies soon became Western Province and the Stormers’ first-choice scrumhalf and his outstanding performances in the 2019 Super Rugby tournament earned him a Springbok call-up.
The then 23-year-old had a dream Test debut against the Wallabies at Ellis Park, scoring two tries, and he scored another in Wellington to help secure a dramatic draw against the All Blacks.
That booked Jantjies’ spot in the Springboks’ World Cup squad and he went on to make six appearances off the bench in Japan, including the final against England in Yokohama.
“Even though Herschel was Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ second-choice scrumhalf, his performances [in 2019] will definitely give him the chance to play more in the future,” says Lionel Langenhoven, who was UWC’s interim head coach in 2020 and is now scrum coach under Paul Treu.
“When we recruited Herschel for UWC, the coaches could see he had what it takes to play on the big stage. What really stood out for me was Herschel’s personality and attitude. He is mature beyond his years and he truly has the potential to be one of the greats in the sport.”
Article and photos courtesy varsitycup.co.za. This article forms part a series focusing on those whose lives were forever changed by FNB Varsity Cup and FNB Vasity Shield.