Home South African What matters is the size of your heart

What matters is the size of your heart

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“I play to inspire people and give confidence to young kids who might shy away because of their size.”

Three years ago, the idea of Faf de Klerk playing a pivotal role in directing the Springboks’ attack in the Rugby World Cup 2019 final seemed nothing short of fanciful.

The scrumhalf had made his Test debut against Ireland in June 2016, only to find himself in the midst of one of South Africa’s worst streaks in recent history.

By November, De Klerk had been discarded after losing eight of his first 11 Tests, culminating in a 27-13 defeat to Wales in which he was sent to the sin bin. He opted to leave Super Rugby side the Lions for the Sale Sharks in England, a move he now credits with sharpening his game.

But he would not get another chance until Rassie Erasmus took charge of the Boks in early 2018.

De Klerk, 28, has more than rewarded his coach’s faith with some dynamic performances at this year’s World Cup.

But his selection has not been unanimously popular back home and he was singled out by some for conceding possession too cheaply with his kicking.

But De Klerk said he is largely immune to criticism. “One of the features of this tournament is that it has shown what matters is the size of your heart rather than your body,” he said.

“I play to inspire people and give confidence to young kids who might shy away because of their size.”

His duel with the experienced Ben Youngs will be one of the keys to tomorrow.

Youngs, two years older and 6cm taller than De Klerk, does appear to offer a slightly greater attacking threat.

In the five matches he has played at the tournament, he has made 19 carries (De Klerk has made 14 in four matches), beaten eight defenders (to De Klerk’s three), made five clean breaks (compared to three), and three try assists (as against one) so far.

But the differences are slight, and the South African has contributed more to his team defensively: De Klerk has completed 29 tackles to Youngs’ 13.

It will be an interesting clash of styles. The busy Youngs creates more from open play. In England’s knockout matches he has made 138 passes to just 17 kicks.

By contrast, De Klerk’s tactics have focused on unleashing South Africa’s dominant pack by kicking for territory. De Klerk has made 77 passes to 36 kicks.

Tomorrow will prove which is most effective.

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