De Klerk: Smith absence won’t hurt All Blacks

Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk says the All Blacks will be just as strong with TJ Perenara in the No 9 jersey for Saturday’s 100th Test match as Aaron Smith remains on paternity leave.

The All Blacks currently top the Castle Lager Rugby Championship log with 20 points, with the Springboks on 10, after winning two of their four matches to date. De Klerk, though, is confident that they could close in on their arch-rivals if they delivered an accurate performance.

“As a group we know we need to be better and step up our game a lot going into this Test,” said De Klerk.

“We really want to rectify the errors we made and deliver a performance people can be proud of.

“Our main focus is to get back on track in this competition and to hopefully force ourselves into contention to still win it.”

The Springboks last faced the All Blacks in 2019, but De Klerk said they had a good idea of what to expect when the sides cross paths on Saturday.

“Our last four matches against the All Blacks have been tight, so we have an idea of how they want to play and how they would try to expose our weaknesses,” said De Klerk.

“In our last match against them [in the 2019 Rugby World Cup] they kicked two kicks that we didn’t handle well and got turnover ball and scored from it. So, we know how vital it will be to kill the loose ball and to ensure that we don’t concede turnovers because that’s where they flourish.

“Their counter-attack is one of their big scoring methods, so they are very dangerous when one makes mistakes.

“We know when we attack, we cannot make errors at all, and if we give them easy knock-ons, we need to kill that ball because that is when they come alive.

“They are also dangerous if they get off-loads … so when it comes to our kicking game, we need to shut them down.”

The nuggety scrumhalf was excited about the prospect of lining up against TJ Perenara in the absence of Aaron Smith, who remained in New Zealand for the birth of his second child.

“I don’t think it will feel that strange not having Aaron Smith there,” he said.

“TJ has a several Test caps and he’s a special player. They play a similar style of rugby but also add their own spice, so it’s going to be great to play against him.

“He’s a huge threat with his running game, so we’ll need to do some homework on him before the game.”

Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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Dylan Jack