South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk is delighted to return to the starting line-up after falling down the pecking order over the last few Tests.
De Klerk fell out of favour in the Springboks set-up, mainly due to the rise of Jaden Hendrikse, but gets another opportunity after a bright cameo in Dublin last weekend.
The 31-year-old will win his 40th Test cap and bring experience alongside stand-in fly-half Damian Willemse, who will be grateful for the support De Klerk can offer him from the base of the scrum.
Happy to start for the Springboks
The half-back admits it means a great deal to him to have returned to a starting role.
“It means a heck of a lot to me,” De Klerk said. “This year has been up and down for me (with injury, concussion, and drop in form). Being picked to start once more has given me that realisation again of what the jersey means to me.
“Playing off the bench in the last few games meant I had a different role, and I was happy to do it because it is all about the team and the job that has to be done, but starting means a lot and it is up to me to stay there and keep pushing for it going forward.”
Willemse starts at fly-half again this week, with his Stormers teammate Manie Libbok set to make his Test debut off the bench.
De Klerk says he has been impressed by Libbok’s confidence and backs the playmaker to handle the pressure of Test rugby.
“What I enjoy about Manie is his self-confidence. He is humble off the field but on it, he knows what he must do. He makes his calls and he leads; a 10 must always have confidence in what he says and does and Manie is a young guy that tells the other players what to do,” the scrum-half said.
“He is not shy, he does not hold back and it makes my job easier when the fly-half knows what he wants.
“Manie has been playing amazing rugby over the last two years and fully deserves this opportunity to show what he can on the international stage. He is a little nervous but I can see that he will not struggle under the pressure.”
Dealing with Dupont
The former Sale Sharks scrum-half faces off against reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Antoine Dupont but believes the Springboks have what it takes to put the superstar on the back foot.
“If you look at the way they play, they want to keep their big forwards close to Dupont — they don’t play a lot off fly-half,” De Klerk said.
“They have their big ball carriers coming around the corner to get them on the front foot and that opens up holes for him.
“He is difficult to contain because he is very quick and physically strong, but we have some clever forwards who can hopefully stop him.
“Australia put him under some pressure and hopefully we can get to him too, but he is playing in a great side and is full of confidence, so for him, it seems to be a continued upward trajectory, but we believe we can get him on the back foot, something he is not used to yet, and put him under serious pressure.”
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