Is Faf de Klerk a sure starter for the Springboks against the British and Irish Lions?
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CAPE TOWN - OVER the next few weeks, our rugby writers will be debating their Springbok choices from No 15 to No 1 for the upcoming series against the British & Irish Lions. Today we focus on scrumhalf.
ASHFAK MOHAMED’S CHOICE: Jaden Hendrikse
Jacques Nienaber is sure to start Faf de Klerk at No 9 against Georgia and the British & Irish Lions, due to his experience and the little preparation time available.
But I feel that Sharks star Jaden Hendrikse is the best South African scrumhalf at the moment.
Even at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, De Klerk had limitations in the technical aspects. His tactical and box-kicking is not always accurate, and his pass is not the smoothest.
World Cup back-up Herschel Jantjies has battled to regain his 2019 form as well.
Hendrikse, though, has displayed all the characteristics of a modern scrumhalf. He has a quick service, is able to make things happen on attack and is never shy of making his tackles.
MIKE GREENAWAY’S CHOICE: Faf de Klerk
It will have been hugely reassuring for Nienaber to watch the impressive form of a number of SA players in the English Premiership over the last year.
Seeing incumbent Bok scrumhalf De Klerk playing well week-in weekout for Sale Sharks – along with the Du Preez twins, Dan and JeanLuc – means the 29-year-old will be anything but underdone for the Lions series.
While De Klerk is clearly the first-choice scrumhalf, there has also been very good form overseas from Cobus Reinach, now with Montpellier. Closer to home,
Jantjies has been stirring into life for the Stormers, while Ivan van Zyl was playing the best rugby of his career for the Bulls before his injury, ahead of his July move to Saracens.
WYNONA LOUW’S CHOICE: Herschel Jantjies
Jantjies may not have been in the same kind of sizzling form as he was during the 2019 World Cup since rugby resumed, but that kind of brilliance will always be tough to beat, especially considering how interrupted the rugby schedule has been due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But, despite a few rusty performances during the early stages of the domestic season, Jantjies’ quality and game-breaking abilities are impossible to forget, and the fact that he has steadily improved in his Stormers outings is encouraging.
The Boks certainly are lucky when it comes to their No 9s. With senior guys like Jantjies and De Klerk – and let’s not forget about Reinach, who has been in fine form for Montpellier – it’s a hot contest.
MORGAN BOLTON’S CHOICE: Faf de Klerk
Don’t get distracted by any other talk regarding the No 9 jersey. Hendrikse, Zak Burger, Jantjies and Reinach are good scrummies, but they all lack that one thing that makes a No 9 great – the niggle that peeves off the opposition.
De Klerk has that in spades.
He is a great defender and distributor, a team man through and through who can stick to and execute a game plan, but it is his ability to get in the faces of the opposition that gives him that extra edge.
It is not far-fetched to state that opposing teams hate to play against him, and already the Lions have begun the psychological warfare by declaring they WILL target the 29-year-old.