Is Faf the new Bok scrumhalf?


De Klerk has been South Africa’s form scrumhalf in this year’s Super Rugby competition and will atttend Heyneke Meyer’s second national training camp in Cape Town from Sunday. He says his first experience of life as a Bok – at the first camp three weeks ago – had given him plenty of encouragement.

“The confidence I got out of that was amazing. Just being there means you’re close (to the team),” he said. “Heyneke is straightforward and he asked me a lot of questions. Last year, in my first season of Super Rugby I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned a lot and worked hard on a number of aspects of my game.

“I’ve corrected those things this year and feel I’ve shown improvement from last year.”

De Klerk has, indeed, been a revelation this season. He didn’t start the year as the Lions’ first choice scrumhalf, but after some stunning performances from off the bench he’s become coach Johan Ackermann’s number one. He’s the heartbeat of the team and the man who ensures the Lions play with speed and the desired momentum. His swift service and sniping breaks haven’t gone unnoticed, but he admits he still has some work to do on his kicking game.

“I’m happy with the kicking at the moment, but it’s a part of my game that I can always improve. I know the Boks depend a lot on a No 9 who can kick well so I just have to keep working hard to get it spot on.”

De Klerk is one of a number of scrumhalves hoping to be on the Bok plane to England in September. Fourie du Preez is the favourite to be the first choice, followed by Ruan Pienaar, while the versatile Francois Hougaard remains an option to Meyer. Then there’s Cobus Reinach, who played a few Tests last year, the Bulls’ Rudy Paige, who’s been in good form, and De Klerk. It’s not an easy decision for Meyer.

De Klerk, though, offers something completely different and he’s possibly the only one of the bunch who has the real X-factor. “It helps that we’ve got the freedom here at the Lions to play the game as we see it,” he says. “It’s great that we’re not pushed to play a certain way, in a specific direction.

“I’ve always liked taking chances, to snipe and break. The big thing, of course, is to not force things. I only break when it’s on and I’ll never try going through players. The key is decision-making and recognising when something is one ... but that sort of thing comes with experience.”

De Klerk will again be a key man for the Lions when they face the Waratahs in their penultimate round-robin game at Ellis Park tomorrow. The Lions must win to keep alive any hopes of making the play-offs. The scrumhalf says he’s up against a very formidable opponent in Nick Phipps. “A lot of scrumhalves don’t actually put their opposite number under any pressure, opting rather to help out in the defensive line, but I’ve noticed that in the last few games Nick has tried hard to pressure his opposite. I’m going to have to try and get around that, but it helps that we’ve got a good scrum.” - The Star

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