Faf de Klerk holds the key to South Africa’s success on defence in the World Cup final, writes JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo.
The Boks are too structured and one-dimensional. De Klerk kicks too often from the base and Willie le Roux offers the team nothing from the back.
These are the myths that have been perpetuated since the start of the tournament. The truth is that the Boks deserve more credit than they’ve been given anBok terrier to rattle England’s big dogsd that De Klerk and Le Roux have been among the most influential players in the tournament.
De Klerk’s attacking and box-kicking game have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, although many have focused on the player’s intent rather than his accuracy. This Saturday, De Klerk would do well to marry intent with execution in an attempt to fracture England’s well organised defence.
Eddie Jones and company will be equally wary of De Klerk’s ability to rattle an attacking team. Over the course of the tournament, the Bok scrumhalf has been given licence to roam and shoot off the line in a bid to disrupt the opposition halfbacks. While it may seem a gamble, the decision to give De Klerk this freedom has amplified the Boks’ defensive effort and led to some significant gains.
Expect to see De Klerk using his speed to pressure Ben Youngs on Saturday. England will need to neutralise De Klerk in this area if they hope to receive a steady supply of quick ball.
De Klerk has laughed off the criticism of his performances in recent weeks. Following the win over Japan, he told journalists in Tokyo that he’d seen the memes poking fun at everything from his hair to his kicking game. Fortunately for the Boks, that external pressure did nothing to shake his focus ahead of the tactical battle against Wales.
Le Roux, however, has never been one to embrace the media or the criticism. Erasmus will hope that one of his most senior players can block out the noise and produce another influential performance in the final.
The coaches and players have consistently backed Le Roux over the course of the tournament. While fans and critics have zoned in on Le Roux’s dropped passes and high-ball spills, they’ve missed the fullback’s attacking contributions. Le Roux has often been the man to make the final pass in the leadup to a try.
Le Roux has also been responsible for organising the back three and much of the backline attack. His communication and decision-making is highly valued within the setup, and this is why it came as no surprise to see Erasmus persisting with the veteran for a high-stakes match like the final.
De Klerk and Le Roux may make mistakes this Saturday, and Erasmus as well as the rest of South Africa will hope that these errors don’t cost the Boks the game.
The Boks aren’t going to win the World Cup without the unique contributions of two very special players, though. If De Klerk and Le Roux fire this Saturday, South Africa will claim the title.
Photo: Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets