Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk insists the Springboks are on the right tactical track and that the aerial challenge will shape the outcome of the World Cup semi-final against Wales. JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo reports.
The criticism of the Boks’ kick-chase tactics – and of De Klerk’s role in particular – has persisted over the course of the campaign. There’s a perception out there that the South Africans are one-dimensional, even though every successful team employs a similar strategy when they are trying to disrupt the opposition defence and set up counter-attacking opportunities.
De Klerk was the subject of many an unflattering meme in the wake of the Boks’ 26-3 victory on Sunday. Many fans feel that the scrumhalf would do well to run the ball at every opportunity rather than kick for his wings to chase.
De Klerk laughed when this was relayed to him at a media conference in Shinjuku on Wednesday. The Boks are preparing for a semi-final clash with Wales, a match that will – whether fans like it or not – be shaped by the kicking of both teams.
‘You have to see to the humour in those things,’ he said. ‘If you get caught up in it you will lose focus of what’s important.
‘It’s impossible not to see most of the stuff that’s put out there, though. Some of it’s really funny. I enjoy most of it. Some guys get a bit personal. I can understand that some people really love the Springboks and are really invested in the team, and if something happens that they don’t agree with they will express themselves.
‘We have a lot of support, be it negative or positive. At the end of the day, when we win, the supporters are going to be happy that we got the job done.
‘We know within our camp what works and what doesn’t,’ he added. ‘We try to listen to the coaching staff and the players around us.’
The scrumhalf flashed another smile when he was asked what the Boks are trying to achieve when they launch a box kick.
‘We try to read the momentum of the contest. If you look at Sunday, we did put the ball in the air a lot and Japan managed to contain our aerial assault initially.
‘Later, we managed to gain a lot of territory through the tactic. Japan had a lot of possession but they rarely managed to do anything with it.
‘It’s all about seeing the space and trying to exploit it. I feel like our wings have come so far over the past two years in that department. They are competing really well in the air.
‘If we can do that well again this weekend we will improve our chances. There will be a big battle in that department. It’s up to our 9, 10 and 15 to decide who kicks and what kick we use.’
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