British & Irish Lions

Faf de Klerk looks ahead to facing Lions captain Conor Murray: 'It won't be up to one guy'

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South Africa's Faf de Klerk dives over to score his try despite the tackle of Kenki Fukuoka during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Quarter Final match between Japan and South Africa at the Tokyo Stadium on October 20, 2019 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
South Africa's Faf de Klerk dives over to score his try despite the tackle of Kenki Fukuoka during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Quarter Final match between Japan and South Africa at the Tokyo Stadium on October 20, 2019 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster

Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk believes his tussle with British and Irish Lions captain and half-back Conor Murray won't be the only determining factor when they face the tourists as the SA 'A' side on Wednesday.

De Klerk will start for a highly-decorated SA 'A' team that's stuffed with Boks, who have had little to no game time in national colours since South Africa won the World Cup in 2019.

The Sale Sharks No 9 will partner Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn in an experienced half-back combination.

READ | Skipper Am brings calmness while Kolbe adds Euro stardust to Bok-laden SA 'A' side

De Klerk believes the Lions will bring an array of backline challenges at the Cape Town Stadium and that the match won't hinge solely on his battle with the Lions skipper.

Murray took the arm-band from Alun Wyn Jones after the lock suffered a shoulder injury that, at the time of the Japan clash, looked to have ruled him out of the tour.

However, Wyn Jones could make a sensational comeback midway through the three-match Test series.

"Murray's obviously played a lot of Tests and has a few Lions series behind him, so to have that type of guy in your team is great," said De Klerk.

"He has a very good kicking game, which is going to be very important in these games.

"But Warren Gatland can change his backline any way he likes. He can play [Owen] Farrell at 12 or 10 and make changes in midfield that can also change the way they want to play.

"There is such a different array of players in their backline that it can change the whole dynamic of how they want to play. It won't be up to one guy (Murray).

"There is a bigger challenge across the backline than just Conor."

De Klerk was part of a decent sum of Sale players who were called up to a wide 46-man Springbok squad in June, which included the return of Du Preez brothers Dan and Jean-Luc.

Sale lost in the English Premiership semi-finals to Exeter, which De Klerk nonetheless viewed as a successful season - successful enough to see even Coenie Oosthuizen recalled to the Boks.

"We had a pretty decent season at Sale, had an enjoyable year and had great improvements all over the show," De Klerk said.

"It's great to see the boys getting an opportunity at the Springboks after playing well for their clubs. That gives a lot of confidence to a lot of players that play abroad too.

"It shows that if you play well, you're going to get your chance at the Springboks. We've played against many of these guys involved [in the Lions], and we have a bit more knowledge about them.

"Hopefully, that will show in the games coming ahead. Most of the time, we don't have to do a lot, the coaching staff gives us a lot of knowledge about the players anyway. But to have personal experience always helps."

Teams:

South Africa 'A'

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes (from): 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Damian Willemse, 24 Kwagga Smith, 25 Elton Jantjies

British & Irish Lions

15 Anthony Watson (England), 14 Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), 13 Chris Harris (Scotland), 12 Bundee Aki (Ireland), 11 Josh Adams (Wales), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Conor Murray (captain, Ireland), 8 Taulupe Faletau (Wales), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Josh Navidi (Wales), 5 Iain Henderson (Ireland), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Kyle Sinckler (England), 2 Ken Owens (Wales), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 17 Mako Vunipola (England), 18 Zander Fagerson (Scotland), 19 Adam Beard (Wales), 20 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 21 Sam Simmonds (England), 22 Gareth Davies (Wales), 23 Elliot Daly (England)

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