Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk has improved his game in leaps and bounds since leaving the Lions in South Africa for the Sale Sharks in England 18 months ago.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, the 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee explained how his game has developed in England with Sale.
His form in England did not go unnoticed and he was brought back to the Springboks setup under Rassie Erasmus in 2018.
De Klerk’s energy on attack and swift distribution played a big role in some big wins for the Boks.
However, where 27-year-old has really impressed is his ability to harass opponents on the field of play.
A perfect example of this was during the Springboks’ famous 36-34 Rugby Championship win against the All Blacks in Wellington this year. In that match, De Klerk put Aaron Smith under a huge amount of pressure which helped stop the All Blacks building any kind of momentum
“I enjoy putting teams under pressure, forcing turnovers and just being a pain really!” he said.
“People know how good Smith is and what he brings to the team, but as a nine playing in that team, you are so comfortable.
“You’re never under pressure and you’re always getting front-foot ball.
“I started doing it at Sale, where I’d seen other nines who seemed to have a lot of time and I realised that I really needed to put them under pressure. We started that here [at Sale]. We put teams under a lot of pressure and won a lot of turnovers from it,” he said.
On that game in Wellington, he added: “With South Africa, we picked up that Smith was a bit too comfortable behind the rucks, so we got in their faces and I tried to get in his face.
“I knew they just expected him to be at every ruck, to deliver quick ball, so I had to hit him and keep him on the ground a second longer,” he said.
De Klerk will be keen to continue his good form at next year’s World Cup in Japan where the Boks will face the All Blacks in their opening game.
“That first game is going to be amazing,” he said.
“We can turn everything on its head and surprise a lot of people. One of Rassie’s main points was that if we can beat New Zealand away, our chances of winning the World Cup will go up so much more.
“We’ve done that, so we know we can beat them in that pool game on neutral ground,” he said.