* Jantjies kicks 20 points in dominant display
* Lions outscore Jaguares four tries to two
* Lions book home semi-final with NSW Waratahs (adds details, quotes)
JOHANNESBURG, July 21 (Reuters) - Maligned flyhalf Elton Jantjies was at his mercurial best as South Africa’s Lions booked a Super Rugby semi-final berth with a bruising 40-23 victory over the Jaguares from Argentina at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Jantjies had been criticised for his performances in a Springbok jersey in the June international series against England, but controlled the quarter-final against the Jaguares with a sublime kicking display, both with ball in hand and from the tee.
Wing Ruan Combrinck, centre Harold Vorster, hooker Malcolm Marx and fullback Andries Coetzee scored tries for the Lions, who have been losing finalists in the last two Super Rugby deciders. Jantjies kicked 20 points, including a drop-goal.
The Lions will meet Australia’s New South Wales Waratahs in Johannesburg in their semi-final next weekend, while the defending champions Canterbury Crusaders host the Wellington Hurricanes in Christchurch.
“It was tough, especially at the start of the second half when the Jaguares put us under immense pressure,” Lions captain Warren Whiteley said at the post-match presentation.
“But credit to the boys, they stuck it out and we converted our pressure into points.
“There is still a lot to work on, especially keeping hold of the ball and exiting better. We gave them a lot of ball with our kicks that they could counter with.”
Jaguares flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez kicked two early penalties for the visitors as they dominated possession and were rewarded on the scoreboard, but the Lions gradually began to claw their way into their opponent’s half.
After a driving maul from an attacking lineout had not produced the desired result, a cross-kick from Jantjies found Combrinck and he dived over for the first try.
The Jaguares then made a hash of trying to clear a kick ahead from Lions wing Aphiwe Dyantyi and Vorster was able to gather the loose-ball and score under the posts.
The home side were hitting their straps as the half came to a close and profited from another Jaguares error when Marx intercepted just inside the visitors’ half and the powerful hooker raced clear.
That gave his side a 24-9 lead at halftime, but the Jaguares scored two minutes into the second period to narrow the gap as Delguy crossed.
Jantjies has played every minute of the Lions’ 17 games this season but landed just a sixth penalty of the campaign to extend the lead again to 11 points, illustrating just how often the Johannesburg-side have opted for attacking set-pieces.
Some excellent handling saw the Jaguares sweep into the Lions half and Matera crashed over to keep the South Americans in the contest.
The visitors piled on the pressure in the Lions half, but when the latter won a scrum penalty on the Jaguares ball with a powerful shove, they were able to sweep up field and score their fourth try through Coetzee.
“We are growing as a team and it has been a fantastic season,” Matera said. “We need to use this game to keep on growing and come back stronger next year.” (Reporting By Nick Said Editing by Christian Radnedge)