Faf ready to drive Springboks
And guess which group of people don’t like the Springbok No 9? England supporters.
“A lot of ‘love-hate’ relationships from England - they love me, but they hate me as well! But I have enjoyed it, and luckily, the people in England have accepted it as well. It has changed, in that two years ago, nobody would’ve recognised me anywhere - I could just walk around and do what I want,” De Klerk - who plays his club rugby for the Sale Sharks in England - said after arriving in Berlin for the Laureus World Sports Awards.
“Now I have to look around and make sure that I’m not causing some trouble! Going back home is a different story, but it’s been really good.”
You could argue that some Bok fans have a similar relationship with De Klerk. There were a number of memes going around on social media during the World Cup about the scrumhalf’s penchant to kick the ball, a tactic ordered by coach Rassie Erasmus.
What made the ploy all the more frustrating is the fact that De Klerk is a running scrumhalf if ever there was one - when playing for the Lions in Super Rugby, he hardly kicked and was renowned for his ability to snipe around the fringes, in addition to his courageous tackles.
But the 28-year-old laughed about it in Japan, and said that he will still be the same player in 2020 who proved in the World Cup final that he can flick on the attack switch when needed.
“That’s what I’ve learned being overseas is to be able to adapt to the style that’s needed - with weather and stuff like that. Whatever the coaches need from me, hopefully I can provide that and adjust my play,” De Klerk said.
“But I think the most important thing in my position is just to make the right decision - that’s so especially in Test-match rugby, to make the right decisions at the right time. Nine and 10 have to work together to make sure that if we are going backwards, we need to the team on the front foot again.
“So, maybe kick it or maybe run it. Game management is going to be vitally important, and execution always has to be perfect.”
De Klerk will face serious competition for the No 9 jersey from the likes of Herschel Jantjies, Cobus Reinach and new Sharks sensation Sanele Nohamba this year.
He has been laid low by a knee injury recently, and said that his recovery is going well and that he expects to be back on the field for Sale in about two weeks.
And having earned 30 Test caps and won the World Cup and Rugby Championship last year, he is eager to keep driving the Boks forward.