Why the Springboks will miss Faf de Klerk
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk will play for Sale Sharks this weekend as part of a deal between Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus and the club‚ which means much-needed game time for another halfback against Scotland.
In terms of physical stature‚ De Klerk doesn’t leave a big hole‚ but after a stellar year where his combative approach and improved technical skills have been key to Bok success‚ he will be missed.
De Klerk’s participation on the current tour‚ which has seen the Boks play against England and France with Scotland and Wales to come‚ was always in the balance because of Sale’s needs.
But there was compromise on both sides with De Klerk playing for the Boks during last week’s 29-26 win over France.
He is also expected to be free to play against Wales next week.
Sale play against joint English Premiership log leaders Saracens this weekend‚ which is a must-win for the struggling Sharks who are currently second last on the standings.
Sale have won just two of six matches while Saracens are undefeated and share top spot with Exeter.
De Klerk is likely to partner Currie Cup winning flyhalf Robert du Preez for Sale this weekend with the latter in England on a short-term contract.
Du Preez made his debut off the bench last week as Sale beat Leicester 18-16 in foul conditions.
De Klerk’s absence opens the door for two of the three scrumhalves on tour – Ivan van Zyl‚ Embrose Papier and Louis Schreuder – to get a look in this weekend.
Van Zyl started against England 10 days ago and was solid and dogged in sticking to instruction to box kick the ball so much they could have renamed November 3‚ ‘Boxing Day.’
He played 75 minutes with Papier earning just five minutes off the bench.
Against France‚ De Klerk started and played the full 80 minutes with Papier an unused substitute for the fourth time this season.
Papier has five Test caps but has only played 26 minutes of Test rugby of which only 17 minutes have been at scrumhalf.
The other nine minutes were as a wing replacement.
Van Zyl is the only halfback in the group with Test starts‚ having played the full 80 minutes against Wales in Washington and also started against England.
Schreuder has one cap and nine minutes of Test rugby to his name.
Erasmus admitted earlier on the tour that halfback was a concern.
“We are thin there (at scrumhalf)‚” Erasmus conceded when addressing the media in London two weeks ago.
“It’s just one of those cycles that we’re going through where we don’t have a lot of experienced nines."
There are good reasons for giving Papier the nod for his first Test start against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The conditions forecast to be unexpectedly sunny in Edinburgh for one.
A dry field will certainly suit Papier’s game and Erasmus hinted that his side made poor decisions on attack against France‚ even though the match was played in rain.
Erasmus felt the Boks’ options about when to kick and when to move the ball were off kilter‚ which was a clear indication he wants to see better decisions on attack. Those instincts come naturally to the 21-year-old Papier.
Papier’s eye for a break around the fringes and brave defence are also quality attributes.
But the fact that Papier has been an unused reserve four times does indicate reluctance by Erasmus to use him.
Still‚ it’s impossible to see Erasmus missing this chance to start Papier with only six Tests before Rugby World Cup 2019.
He could also offer Schreuder a chance from the bench.