Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk hopes to reap the benefits of a rare ‘pre-season’ programme in the lead-up to the World Cup. JON CARDINELLI reports.
De Klerk has played almost non-stop since the start of 2017. He linked up with Sale Sharks on the back of the Lions’ largely successful Vodacom Super Rugby campaign and then rejoined the Boks immediately after the 2017-18 northern hemisphere season.
Rassie Erasmus backed De Klerk to start most of the Boks’ Tests in 2018. Following the match against France in Paris last November, De Klerk was released to his English club.
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He represented the Manchester-based side until the conclusion of the northern season. After enjoying some time off with friends and family in the Northern Cape, he was recalled by the Boks to prepare for a 2019 campaign that will include the Rugby Championship and World Cup in Japan.
‘It’s been great,’ De Klerk told SARugbymag.co.za in a recent interview. ‘I’ve been playing rugby non-stop for the past three seasons. Now I’ve had a decent break and will have a “pre-season” for the first time in what feels like ages.
‘This will allow me to work on a bit of conditioning and to fine-tune a few other things. It couldn’t have come at a better time, when you consider what will be at stake later this year in Japan. I certainly want to be a part of that.’
De Klerk is currently training with the 39-man Bok group in Pretoria. South Africa will play Australia in Johannesburg on 20 July before travelling to Wellington to tackle the All Blacks a week later.
The Rugby Championship has been reduced from three to six matches to account for the respective teams’ preparations for the all-important World Cup. Results will be secondary for Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa over the next couple of months.
However, as De Klerk suggests, there is a lot to be gained from the three Rugby Championship matches, as well as the subsequent one-off against Argentina in Pretoria.
We may well see Erasmus experimenting with some new combinations. Players like De Klerk, who are considered first-choice in their positions, aren’t about to take anything for granted.
‘The Rugby Championship is a massively important tournament,’ he said. ‘We are all trying to lock down places for the World Cup squad.
‘Coach Rassie might give a number of players a chance over the course of the tournament. You will have to make your chance count. It’s going to be very interesting.’
Cobus Reinach and Herschel Jantjies are the other scrumhalves in the training group of 39. Reinach hasn’t played for the Boks since 2015. Jantjies, who earned a call-up on the back of some explosive performances for the Stormers, is yet to be capped.
The Vodacom Bulls’ Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier – who were part of the the Bok group last year – were not included in the initial squad.
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