In 2019, Elton Jantjies was a World Cup winner with South Africa.
The four years since have been far from straightforward for the Springbok fly-half, and last month culminated in bombshell he had failed a drugs test. Jantjies has been left shattered by the news.
He has been no stranger to headlines in recent times, the positive sample for a banned substance coming on the back of a chain of events which wouldn’t have been out of place in a Hollywood thriller. Sadly for Jantjies, it was all very real.
In 2022, Jantjies received threats from thugs he believes were over an unpaid fee owed to his former agent, who denies any wrongdoing. Jantjies also became big news in his homeland and across the world after he had an affair with his country’s team dietician Zeenat Simjee.
In the aftermath of that national scandal, he was followed by private investigators desperate to know his every move. Only a short stint in rehab to help his insomnia allowed Jantjies to escape the storm which had engulfed him and his family.
Elton Jantjies was a Rugby World Cup winner with South Africa four years ago but his life has changed a lot since then
Jantjies has been left shattered by the news that he failed a drugs test in August
Jantjies also became big news in his homeland and across the world after he had an affair with his country’s team dietician Zeenat Simjee (left)
‘You’re the first guy I’m doing an interview with about all this,’ Jantjies tells Mail Sport, speaking before his positive test was confirmed.
‘The whole media have made requests for me to speak about last year and I never have. I want to say it as it is. That’s how I do things. I don’t want to hide away. Certain things have happened.’
On August 26, Jantjies released a statement confirming he had returned a positive test in June this year for banned substance Clenbuterol.
The 33-year-old — a highly talented playmaking No 10 who backed up first-choice fly-half Handre Pollard at the 2019 World Cup — was part of South Africa’s Rugby Championship squad earlier this summer. However, he missed out on selection for this year’s tournament and remains contracted to Agen in French rugby’s second division.
Where Jantjies’ career goes now following the positive test is unclear. A long ban is likely if he’s found guilty, but he still wants to tell his story.
‘There was one specific voice-note I received which I’ll never forget,’ says Jantjies, describing a terrifying recording. ‘The guy said, “We will go and f***ing take his rugby boots”.’ Jantjies pauses.
‘It was scary,’ he adds. ‘With threats like that you have to be careful with your movements, especially in a place like Johannesburg.
The 33-year-old’s career with the Springboks looks to be over
‘I contacted a few friends for protection. Now I’ve got bodyguards and security who can always be at my house if I need it.
‘As a player, you don’t ever want to have to think about things like that.’
To fully understand how Jantjies went from World Cup glory to fearing for his safety, it is necessary to go back to 2014 when he signed for Japanese side Shining Arcs.
At the time, Jantjies says he was unaware he was required to pay his former agent, a fee from his first year’s salary in the Far East. It was not until 2020, after Jantjies had tried to part ways with the agent, that the player says he was made aware of the money owed.
‘I had to pay it just like that with no planning. That shook me a little bit,’ Jantjies says.
‘It didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to work out exactly how much money it was, why I was told so late, and how come it had all of a sudden come up now and not earlier.
‘It’s not easy to pay someone £20,000 just like that. That’s something you have to plan.
‘As a professional sportsman you get a lot of money, but you also have certain things where your money goes. You still live off a budget. We all have families and responsibilities.
‘I’m not someone who can be told to pay £20,000 on the Monday and do it on the Wednesday.
‘For me, it was a matter of principle. It wasn’t about the money. I’d always been honest and open with him.’
The South African was a fan favourite during his time with the national team as he is seen previously posing for selfies
Jantjies went from World Cup glory to fearing for his life after he claimed he received threats in South Africa
In October 2021, Jantjies and his former agent agreed in court the player would pay a significant sum as part of money owed.
A total of £20,000 nonetheless remained outstanding. Jantjies wanted to ascertain the facts as to whether the agent was right to demand the money under World Rugby and South African Rugby rules. It was at that point things started to turn ugly.
‘I’ll just go straight to the point,’ Jantjies says, his face expressionless.
‘The threats first started with messages. Me and my wife were told if we didn’t make the payments, he (the agent) would go to lawyers. After the lawyers, it was the media.
‘I never knew he would go to these extents with the messages I’ve received on WhatsApp, the emails he’s sent me, and the threats.
Jantjies (middle) represented the Barbarians in a clash with Argentina at Twickenham last year
‘To make threats like that against a player who was always loyal to him means he’s someone I’ll never trust.’
Jantjies was represented by his former agent for more than a decade. The pair were close. While Jantjies worked out a payment plan and sought clarity from rugby’s authorities, his former right-hand man had clearly had enough. Debt collectors threatened Jantjies into paying.
‘When guys tried to contact me from Cape Town, I didn’t answer because I knew who two of the three were,’ Jantjies says. ‘I won’t name names. The third guy, who was the one I didn’t know, sent me that voice-note. My family were in Japan at the time and waiting for me there. I was alone in Johannesburg.
‘My wife told me the men were coming straight to my house and in South Africa, anyone can look in the book and find out where someone lives.’
Jantjies (right) has been involved in a long-running legal battle with his former agent
Jantjies has insisted he’s now paid all of the money to the former agent but a High Court in South Africa has granted judgment in favour of the agent and against the player.
The fly-half has raised his treatment to both World Rugby and South Africa’s rugby authorities.
World Rugby confirmed they were aware of the matter and South Africa Rugby were now the ones tasked with ensuring it is dealt with.
A South Africa Rugby spokesperson said: ‘A verbal complaint has been laid with South Africa Rugby. We are awaiting it in writing after which time an investigation can begin.’
When contacted by Mail Sport, the former agent strongly denied the accusations made by Jantjies.
A legal case between the two in the South African courts – which began last year but was briefly stopped – is set to resume in the coming weeks.
The agent said: ‘As far as I’m concerned, this matter was handled and addressed last year already and relates to a summons issued by the High Court of Pretoria and served by the Sheriff.
Jantjies has claimed he has had to hire security in South Africa to keep him and his family safe
‘I strongly deny these allegations as put to you by Mr Jantjies. This is clearly an attempt by Mr Jantjies to smear my name after taking legal action against him.
‘My legal team will be engaging with Mr Jantjies in this regard.
‘As this is an ongoing legal case, it is not easy to comment further. I will say that the correct legal steps are being taken to recover outstanding fees.’
While the row with his agent rumbled on, Jantjies was also at the centre of the media spotlight last year.
In September 2022, he and Simjee were both sent home from Argentina after reports they were having an affair hit the South African media. Simjee has always denied the accusations despite Jantjies accepting he was in the wrong to his wife, Iva Ristic, with whom he hays three children.
Jantjies was also arrested in May 2022 over allegations he caused damage on a flight from Dubai to Johannesburg. The charges were withdrawn in June after Jantjies agreed to pay for the repairs.
Jantjies and Ristic remain legally married although the latter has admitted separation is likely.
Jantiles (middle right) with his wife Iva Ristic (middle left) and children at a restaurant
Jantjies was recently pictured with South African television personality Ashleigh Ogle on Instagram.
When questioned about the incident with Simjee, Jantjies says: ‘I don’t want to open that up again. My wife stuck. She’s good.
‘I was always very honest with her and she knows that. Her support is unbelievable. She’s a strong woman. The rehab is one thing I’ll speak about. It’s a medical thing and it was also a thing for me to stay out of the public eye and away from the media.
‘I had a lot of private investigators on my back. I had a lot of people following me wherever I went. They were trying to follow me to see if Zeenat and I had a relationship. They weren’t things me, my wife, or my family wanted to have. Rehab gave me time to let it go for two weeks.
‘It was to help with my sleeping. I focus on rugby 24/7 and struggle to sleep.
‘It was the right time to go and rest. What happened put a big strain on my family. The rehab was good for me. But my family and friends went through a lot of strain.’
After 46 Springbok caps, Jantjies’ international career looks over.
Jantjies (right) has assured supporters he ‘has not and never will deliberately take a banned substance’ and is fighting to prove his innocence
‘It is with no small amount of sadness I have to inform you I received notification earlier this month from the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport that a urine sample I provided to them in June 2023 returned a positive test for a banned substance,’ he said in a statement after learning of his positive test for Clenbuterol – a fat-burning and asthma medication which also enhances stamina.
‘I have instructed legal representation to assist me in determining the source of the prohibited substance and I have instructed them to ask for my B sample to be tested and to launch an inquiry into the possible causes for the positive test.
‘At this stage, I can say little more about the matter save that I assure all my supporters I have not and never will deliberately take a banned substance and I will do everything in my power to prove my innocence. This is another setback in what has been a very volatile time for me.
‘But I shall overcome this with the support of my family and friends. I know there will be those who doubt my innocence, but I hope to prove you wrong in due course. For those who support me, thank you.’