The Lions’ star scrumhalf leaped and intercepted what would have certainly been a try-creating pass by the Irish, and then he produced an extremely alert spot-tackle in the latter stages of the game. Springbok desperation was all-round, and relief was brought by one man.
De Klerk was the smallest frame on the field, but his athleticism and bravery stood the tallest. And the Springboks won that game because of him.
But that wasn’t the only time he came to the Boks’ rescue. At Ellis Park against Argentina, the Boks overturned a 10-point deficit with less than 15 minutes to play to clinch the deal. And yet again, De Klerk sparked that comeback victory as the Boks scored 17 unanswered points thereafter.
He ran a cutting line and produced a perfectly-timed offload to Johan Goosen to score, reviving the Boks’ confidence and can-do spirit.
What he did shouldn’t be forgotten. But South Africans shouldn’t only be able to see his greatness again by tapping into a memory or a video that showed him at his best.
Like many other Springboks this season, De Klerk has failed to truly perform to his full potential thereafter. He was a top-performer in his first three Tests in a Bok jersey, but after that his last three games, all of them marked by defeat in the Rugby Championship, could almost be seen as shocking (by his standards).
His combination with Elton Jantjies hasn’t been nearly as potent with the Boks as it was with the Lions, although the nagging feeling remains that he and Jantjies were not comfortable in a restrictive game plan.
De Klerk has been criticised for his sometimes-erratic passing and his tactical game.
But he should still be the frontrunner in the Springbok No 9 jersey. Because even at his best, Rudy Paige doesn’t have the ability to influence a game the way De Klerk can.
Paige has had decent performances in the Bok jersey this season. Against the Barbarians two weeks ago, he had a good outing with quick service.
But against England at Twickenham at the weekend he was completely off.
He was way too slow to and at the breakdowns and his decision-making, especially when to kick, wasn’t always on par. And what made it even worse was the fact that when he did decide to kick the ball from the base, it was very poorly executed.
De Klerk might have been guilty of a few mistakes when he was having a bad game, but he offers one thing that no other scrumhalf in the country does. He has an X-factor. That X-factor that is needed in a position that forms part of the spine of a rugby team.
His gutsy defence. His quick service at the breakdowns. His ability to exploit space. His knack for creating something out of nothing. All of these things make him a standout.
Yes, he has been shaky at times, but just like with anything else, you become more comfortable with practice, or in this case, game time.
Like all great scrumhalves, De Klerk has already shown an ability to dictate the tempo of the game. He is so much more than just a pack-motivator and a navigator - he is the one player who can single-handedly propel his team forward.
South Africa lost a legend of the game in Fourie du Preez, and it’s only fitting that a player of such stature be replaced with a man with a great feel for and understanding of the game. A man like De Klerk.
De Klerk has a long way to go before he reaches the heights of Du Preez, and he is probably one of those players who, in order to flourish, needs to be able to play his game. He needs an environment that is conducive to his strengths.
He needs more experience and game time.
Original source: Can De Klerk spark Bok revival?