Super Rugby

Faf still part of Lions plans

Johannesburg - There is only one Faf and he is certainly still in the Lions plans.

That’s the word from Lions coach Johan Ackermann despite the halfback Faf de Klerk being left out of the match 23 for the second week in a row and speculation that the Springbok halfback, who was reported to have signed a contract with English club Sale Sharks for a mega-figure, was on the outside.

Ackermann told that there shouldn’t be anything read into De Klerk not being selected for the matches against the Rebels and Brumbies while the Lions are on tour.

“I’m not sure why there is speculation,” Ackermann said.

“There has been a lot of pressure on Faf from the beginning of the year as a Springbok in any case, and he will be the first one to admit he wasn’t at his best at times. But we support him all the way, he is a player with the X-factor in our team and he is still a key player in our team. I made it clear in front of the whole team that Faf still has a major role to play in our season and there is only one of him. He can lift the tempo on the field.”

Ackermann said De Klerk’s decision to take up the offer at Sale would never be held against him.

“As a coach the last thing I would do is to hold something like that against him,” Ackermann added, “That isn’t the reason he isn’t in the match 23. We kept continuity with Ross (Cronje) – he did have a week off at a stage when he didn’t play at all. Dillon (Smit) gives us a lot of options as well. He has played wing for the Pukke and Leopards. He has played fullback. So we decided that for this specific game to put Dillon on the bench because he can cover more than one position.

“There is definitely going to be a time when Faf will play a role, whether it is from the bench or to start. This competition is such that especially at nine there is a lot of hard work to be done, to keep players fresh. In the front row as well, and that is why we always try and rotate those positions.

“There is nothing as good as making a player hungry again as well and I’m sure he will grab the opportunity as well. He definitely has a major role by us. We will help him get back into the team and he is working hard on fixing the things we want him to fix.

“But there is only one Faf, that can lift the tempo and bring his individual brilliance to the field. He is a major part of this team’s spirit. We love him and there is definitely no bad feelings anywhere.”

De Klerk is set to return to the side when they get back to South Africa.

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