South Africa is a proud rugby nation, one that has often been a breeding ground for top rugby players. Known for big, powerful forwards and lightning quick backs, they have always been an entertaining side to watch.
But there have been significant changes in the rugby landscape. Look at the improvement in Northern Hemisphere rugby for example. Millions of euros and pounds have been pumped into European leagues to great effect. Meanwhile, South Africa has done little to improve their stagnation.
This stalling has forced some of South Africa’s top talents to give up on international careers in order to find improvement. Look at Pat Lambie, Willie Le Roux, Ruan Ackermann, and Faf de Klerk.
While this topic is complex and controversial, I would like to focus on the last of those names. Faf de Klerk could be incredibly valuable to the Boks, especially considering their recent struggles at scrum-half.
Current scrum-half options
Worcester’s Francois Hougaard is an excellent scrum-half in terms of athleticism. However, his skill and decision-making do not match his strength and speed. The Bulls’ Rudy Paige is a threat when he finds a form, but his form can also be inconsistent and erratic.
This leaves the Springboks with the Lions’ Ross Cronje, who has can be both sensational and downright unpredictable. His performance in the 25-24 defeat to the All Blacks was immense, but his game management in the 38-0 humiliation in Ireland proved otherwise.
Tactically, he is good at delivering quick ball, but his decision making in tight games has seemed directionless. In Ireland, he elected to box-kick every time he had quick-ball. We can’t be sure if he was asked to do this, however, this caused the Springboks to lose possession frequently and gain little forward momentum.
Faf de Klerk
So, does de Klerk deserve to play for the Springboks? The answer is possibly yes. Can he play for the Springboks? Well, that is another question and the answer is no. He does not have 30 caps for South Africa, and he plays in a European country.
This aside, his form this year for the Sale Sharks has been nothing short of imperious. So far he has played 12 matches, scoring 3 tries, with 5 penalties and 5 conversions. While he might not have the scoring rate of a wing, he has been the catalyst for a lot of Sale’s best moves.
With a potent backline including the likes of AJ MacGinty, James O’Connor, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Marland Yarde, Byron McGuigon, and Denny Solomona, he has been another star in the Sale system. Often the one to ignite the others.
When asked about their South African scrum half, Sale’s Director of Rugby Steve Diamond had nothing but superlatives for the Bok.
“He’s the best 9 in the competition,” said Diamond. “He’s electric. He understands the game, he has a good skill-set and he is the beating heart of the team.”
So why doesn’t he start as a Springbok? Because he never had the opportunity to be his best in South Africa.
Nowadays, a huge number of the best in South Africa leave the country, even the coaches.
Hopefully, de Klerk will be given further opportunity to play for South Africa; I believe it is necessary for both him and for South Africa.
Author: Andrew Weaver
My name is Andrew, I live in New York City, USA, and I play second and back row for Play Rugby USA. When I am not playing rugby, I’m drawing, or enjoying a good book. Thankfully, I was able to navigate through the other American sports and land on rugby.