Faf de Klerk is fully aware that his decision-making will need to be spot on against Ireland, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
De Klerk is set to make his Test debut after being named as the only uncapped player in the Boks' starting lineup, with the nippy No 9 having earned inclusion after an outstanding season for the Lions.
Although he has built his reputation on his speed to the breakdown, strong service and ability to beat defenders with his impressive pace, he will know that the pressure of Test rugby will bring different challenges.
Chatting to the media at the team’s hotel in Cape Town, an elated De Klerk insisted he would continue to play his ‘natural’ game, but was aware of the importance of accurate option-taking.
‘I think the biggest thing for me is to ensure my decision-making is good, you can’t run everything and you can’t kick everything. So it’s important to get that balance right in the different zones of play, and if we have the opportunity to have a go then I’ll definitely do that.
‘Not a lot of guys get their first cap with a start, so I really hope I can make good decisions and show why I’m in that jersey,’ he added. ‘The way I see rugby is that if you get your opportunity, you have to use it. Now I need to make the most of it.’
Allister Coetzee said De Klerk had been a ‘bundle of energy’ in training and at times needed to be reined in, but the Bok coach insisted this wouldn’t need to be the case on game day.
‘I can’t put Faf in a box and change his way of playing, but I can help him to make better decisions. It’s not about hitting sixes, it’s not a T20, it’s about building an innings, and I’m sure Faf understands that. But when the opportunity is there, and with good decision-making and a feel for the game, he’ll know when the time is right to have a go.’
Coetzee said De Klerk had the all-round game to add an exciting dynamic to the Bok backline.
‘You look at your No 9, and he needs to do the basics well. He must have good service and an educated kicking boot, which Faf has. His core skills are also very good. You need your No 9 to get to the breakdown quickly and get the ball away, and he’s one of the players who can do that. Faf is not just a link, he keeps the opposition honest around the rucks and mauls, and he must play his way. He has a great feel for the game, but his basics, like getting the ball into the No 10’s hands quickly, need to be good as well.’
De Klerk said he was looking forward to having the opportunity to test and express himself at the highest level.
'I don't have the experience to know what Test rugby is like. But I reckon in any match there are ample opportunities to play instinctively. I haven't been told to alter my game yet, so I'll stick to what I know. I know the northern hemisphere teams are more used to a slow-paced game, so I might try a few tricks and see how Ireland react. If they react positively, then we will try something different.'
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images