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Boks’ Faf de Klerk out to impress in front of Mbombela home crowd

Springboks scrumhalf Faf de Klerk is aiming to put in a good performance in front of his home crowd against the All Blacks at Mbombela Stadium.
Springboks scrumhalf Faf de Klerk is aiming to put in a good performance in front of his home crowd against the All Blacks at Mbombela Stadium.
Image: Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

As he prepared for the big Rugby Championship clash against New Zealand at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday, Springboks scrumhalf Faf de Klerk remembered his early days as a young player with the Pumas.

De Klerk and veteran No 8 Duane Vermeulen are two players in the Bok squad with strong links to Mbombela as they were born in the province and played for the Pumas.

Prop Vincent Koch also has links to the province as he spent a number of his formative rugby years at the Pumas before he transferred to the Stormers and later to Saracens and Wasps in England.

“We [the Springboks] last played here in 2016 and you sort of reminisce on everything you went through,” De Klerk said.

“Me and Vincent Koch had a bit of a laugh the other day saying they don’t know what it’s like go through this route and the stuff we had to go through with [Pumas coach] Jimmy [Stonehouse] back in the day.”

From the Pumas, 2019 World Cup-winning De Klerk left for the Lions before he moved to Sale Sharks in England and then Yokohama Canon Eagles in Japan earlier this year.

“We just had a giggle about it and just to reminisce on the sort of battle that you had to travel to get to this place. There are a lot of guys in this group that really had to fight to get here.

“You were written off as a youngster and you weren’t supposed to be here. We take a lot of energy into the game because of that and we want to use that in everything we do.”

On Saturday, De Klerk will once again pit his wits against vastly experienced All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith.

“We have become friends off the field, but we know that once we get on the pitch it's back to business. He is one of their key players with over a 100 Test matches — that makes him unbelievably successful with what he has been doing over there and it is always good to play with one of the best in the world.”

There are three other scrumhalves in the Boks squad in Jaden Hendrikse, Herschel Jantjies and Grant Williams. De Klerk said he enjoys the competition.

There is also Cobus Reinach who is out with a shoulder injury but expected to be fit for the back-to-back clashes against Australia Down Under next month.

“There has always been pressure from the other '9s', we are four guys in camp again and I think coach Jacques Nienaber can pick anyone on the day to start. I don’t think we all play a similar game and they will do the job that is needed.

“There is always that pressure. If you slip up once, maybe you will get another chance, but if you do it again you are gone because the next guy is ready to go and that’s good.

“If you look at the entire squad, it’s pretty much the same thing. If you are experienced or a youngster coming through it doesn’t really matter, you have to show it on the field. I enjoy big games and pressure and that’s where most guys play really well.”

TimesLIVE

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