England coach Eddie Jones says the Springboks’ ‘little buzzsaw’ Faf de Klerk had a big impact in Saturday’s Test at Ellis Park, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Johannesburg.
In his first game back for the Boks since joining the Sale Sharks in England, De Klerk picked up the Man of the Match award after producing a vibrant performance that inspired the hosts to a memorable 42-39 comeback victory.
According to ESPN’s stats, De Klerk beat two defenders, made eight runs, completed 32 running metres and completed 59 passes, while also scoring the Boks’ all-important first try.
The 26-year-old always looked to be a threat around the fringes, but his decision-making and distribution were also out of the top drawer.
‘Faf was excellent, he’s a little buzzsaw, he was quick to the ball, shifted it quickly, and picked up runners well,’ Jones commented at Saturday’s post-match press conference. ‘Then you have someone like Willie [le Roux], when he gets front-foot ball, he can be very dangerous. The two wingers also looked as if they could run as fast as Usain Bolt, so it’s a really dangerous back three [that the Boks have].’
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus said he had certainly been pleased with the character displayed by a number of key players, and the manner in which the overseas-based players vindicated their inclusion.
‘We have to build as a squad and make brave decisions moving forward. Some people thought we were taking a chance in bringing back a guy like Faf, but what he brought to the game was fantastic. There were plenty of players who got a tick behind their name.’
De Klerk also fronted up to the media a couple of hours after his inspired performance, and he admitted it was a match that had meant a lot to him.
‘I was really just excited to be out there again. When we started fighting back after being 21 points behind, the team suddenly realised how we want to play and what they are capable of. The guys were running over players, hitting them back, the wings were stepping and scoring tries. So I just fed off that energy, and hoped to bring some of my own.’
Although De Klerk’s passion was palpable at times during the course of Saturday’s clash, the influential scrumhalf said he had actually felt quite calm during the encounter.
‘I don’t think my style of play has changed that much, but perhaps my game management is a bit better… there’s also some experience that I’ve gained overseas, so I was a bit more confident and calm, which always helps.’
De Klerk was replaced towards the end of the match, but it was confirmed that he was just struggling with a bit of cramp – as was Le Roux. Handré Pollard was said to have a shoulder complaint that will be examined further on Sunday.
Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images