Johannesburg - South African rugby has for long been suffering with an obsession with size but Lions scrumhalf Faf de Klerk has certainly shown that a player should not be judged by the height of his stature.
Since joining the Lions on loan from the Pumas for the 2014 Super Rugby competition he has been a pivotal part of the Johannesburg side’s expansive and entertaining style of play.
At 1.70m he might be considered pint-sized in traditional rugby terms but what he lacks in size he makes up for with his unpredictable sniping runs and sharp service to his runners.
He has formed a successful halfback combination with flyhalf Elton Jantjies with the duo forming dangerous partnership this season.
De Klerk’s consistent performance has seen talk of him receiving higher honours growing over the past few months with the 23-year-old receiving a call-up into the Springbok training camp at the end of April.
“It’s always been a dream to become a Springbok and I’ve always wanted to be where I am right now,” De Klerk said.
“If I continue to play well hopefully the chance will come for me.”
The Nelspruit-born player said having played Super Rugby over the last two seasons he had learned valuable lessons and he would be able to make the step-up to an international level.
“Last year I learnt a lot of things in my first year in Super Rugby, so this year I think I corrected a lot of errors I made last year,” De Klerk said.
“I think if I can get the chance I will have to be ready and I will take that opportunity.”
Although the Lions’ brand of rugby encouraged players to play with freedom, De Klerk said he had always liked going for the gap when it was on throughout his career.
“I’ve always liked to snipe but the big thing is not to force stuff and I only break when it is on, so I will never try to create something that is not there,” he said.
“It is about using your opportunity and recognising when to take that chance. It makes it easier when the team plays like we do now where they create a lot of holes for you.”
De Klerk said forming a combination with an enterprising player like Jantjies has also played a deciding role in his own confidence.
He said they complemented each other on the field and as they spent more time together on the field they were getting more in tune with each other.
“We are trying to keep each other calm but we also enjoy ourselves out there where we would be cracking jokes on the field,” he said.
“We are starting to understand each other really well right now which is very good for me and if he plays well it is as if the whole team gets a bit of a spark.”
Asked whether he has ever seen his short stature as an impediment, De Klerk said he ‘got over it’ a long time ago.
Considering that All Blacks and Highlanders scrumhalf Aaron Smith is similar in size, De Klerk should not have any insecurities over his height.
“The confidence I got from the Springbok camp was just amazing and just being selected for that group means you are close and he (South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer) won’t choose a guy to go there if he is not performing,” De Klerk said.