Cape Town – Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk , despite having helped guide his side to the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-finals, has come in for some rather heated criticism from back home…
Almost all of it centres around South Africa’s tactic to kick, with De Klerk often going to the boot from the base of the ruck or after a set piece.
In the quarter-final against Japan this past weekend, De Klerk kicked the ball more than any other player on the field – 17 times – and the feeling among many South African supporters was that he gave away possession unnecessarily on too many occasions.
Not for the first time in the tournament, social media erupted with jokes and memes pointed towards De Klerk that poked fun at his box-kicking.
Still, the Boks emerged as comfortable 26-3 winners against Japan and they now go into Sunday’s semi-final against Wales as clear favourites.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 23, 2019
The 28-year-old was asked about the criticism he was receiving from back home on Wednesday.
“I can’t go in too deep about it,” he said.
“We do kick a lot, but we try to read the game and the momentum. So, if you look at last weekend, we did kick a lot in the air, and Japan managed to contain our aerial battle.
“But if you look further than that, we managed to get so much territorial gains on them with our defence, with the guys being loaded on that.
“It was a very positive outcome when we kicked. We did give them possession, but they rarely managed to do anything with it.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 20, 2019
Turning his attention to this weekend, De Klerk acknowledged that kicking would once again be a key component of the Bok game plan.
“It is going to be a different challenge this week (against Wales). I don’t think we are going to have the same threats as that (from Japan). It’s all about seeing the space, and I feel our wings have come so far over the last two years. They are really competing well in the air,” he said.
“They (Wales) have got very good wingers, so it is going to be a massive battle in the air.
“It is going to be up to nine, 10 and 15 to decide which type of kick we are going to use, and if it’s going to be off me, 10 or 15.
“We don’t always go out with a set plan of me just going up and kicking. We do read the game, and listen a lot to what Handre (Pollard) is telling me.”
If you want to get rid of something in your life, give it to Faf De Klerk. He will kick it away #JPNvRSA
— Silindo Mnxeba (@SilindoMnxeba) October 20, 2019
On the social media attention, De Klerk acknowledge that it sometimes crossed the line.
“The players always say they try to stay away from it, and we do try. But it’s impossible not to see most of the stuff that has been put out there,” he said.
“Some things are really funny, and I enjoy some of the stuff people come up with. But also, some guys get a bit personal. It’s not personally just on us or a player – people love the Springboks and are very invested in the team.
“So, if they see something go wrong or don’t agree with it, it’s not because they are negative, but because they are very invested. We know we have great supporting people behind us.
“When we win, they will still be happy we got the job done. We know in the camp what works for us and what doesn’t. We try to listen to the coaching staff and players around us – that’s probably the main thing.
“There is a nice funny picture where it says I can spin a ball and kick, so it’s a spinnekop (spider).
“That was pretty funny for me to see. So, there is a lot of humour in it, and if you get caught up in that stuff, you are losing focus on what you need to do.”
The Boks will name their team for their semi-final on Thursday.
— Koshiek Karan (@iamkoshiek) October 20, 2019
Faf De Klerk’s kicking frustrates the hell out of me.
— “Unsanitized Logic” Sam 2019 🔥😂 (@Mkhu28) October 20, 2019
No one at all:
Not even the ants that walk on the African plains:
Faf de Klerk: pic.twitter.com/3DtEUFhUOy
— Emilio Nomdo (@EmilioNomdo_) October 20, 2019
Faf de Klerk is the Messi of rugby. The boy is good 👌 #JPNvRSA
— IG: lebo_mshengu (@Lebo_Mshengu) October 20, 2019
premrugby: South Africa breaking Japanese💔 hearts with brutal physicality and game management 🏋️♂️
SaleSharksRugby maestro fafdeklerk at his brilliant best 💫
— ItsAllRugby (@ItsAllRugby_com) October 20, 2019