JOHANNESBURG - “FIRSTLY, my yellow card,” said Faf de Klerk defiantly, “I honestly don’t think it was a yellow card. I clearly played the guy’s arm and not the ball, so I am not really sure about that one.”
The livewire scrumhalf made his unapologetic statement, regarding his sin-binning against Australia this past weekend, yesterday during the Springbok team announcement. Yet, regardless of his conviction, there can be no denying that the world champions have been making some uncharacteristic mistakes, and paying the price for it.
Even so, De Klerk maintained that the errors that have crept into the Bok gameplan in recent weeks is due to the team losing a measure of control in their approach, and maybe losing sight of what has made them so successful in recent years.
“Maybe,” said De Klerk, “we have strayed a bit away from how we normally play, our DNA, and that maybe has put the guys under pressure, forcing the errors, forcing guys to overplay a bit. That is up to us, as game-drivers, to make sure we play in the right areas on the field, to not have a go when it is not really on. We know as a group we need to be better; we need to step up our game a lot going into this Test and rectify those errors.”
It’s true. The Boks will have to return to their best form to beat the
All Blacks in the Centenary Test on Saturday (kick-off 9am) and De Klerk and Co are cognisant of the fact that any mistake, any slip-up, any error, could spell disaster.
Said De Klerk: “What we have seen from New Zealand is that they are very dangerous when you make mistakes.
“Their counter-attack,” he continued, “is one of their big scoring methods. We know that if we go on attack, to not make errors at all. If we give them knock-ons, we need to kill that ball because that is when they come alive.
“When we go to our kicking game and they get their off-loads going, they can be very dangerous, so we need to shut them down.”
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber, meanwhile, has made two changes to the starting XV. Kwagga Smith will start in the No 7 jumper; replacing Franco Mostert, who moves to the bench as utility-forward cover.
In the second-row Lood de Jager makes a return after a short injury lay-off, replacing Marvin Orie, and will pack down alongside Eben Etzebeth.
Elsewhere, Jasper Wiese was not eligible for selection due to being cited by Sanzaar’s disciplinary committee for foul play. Cheslin Kolbe also did not make the teamsheet as he continues his recovery from injury.
Nienaber has also gone for a more conventional 5-3 split on the bench, introducing Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn as replacements, alongside Herschel Jantjies.
“The experience that they bring is going to be immense for us – a few more calm heads is never a bad thing,” said De Klerk of Elton and Steyn.
“It gives the backs a few more opportunities to have a go, and give it their all when the tank is empty; we have a few more changes we can make.
(Steyn) can fit in almost anywhere, and we now (Elton) has played centre as well, and flyhalf. We are well covered.”
Springboks starting XV: Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Kwagga Smith, Siya Kolisi (capt); Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Marco van Staden, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn.