Super Rugby

Move over Faf, here's Krappie: Lions hopeful of another cult hero at scrumhalf

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Morne van den Berg of the Emirates Lions during the Super Rugby Unlocked match between Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions at Jonsson Kings Park on October 09, 2020 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
Morne van den Berg of the Emirates Lions during the Super Rugby Unlocked match between Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions at Jonsson Kings Park on October 09, 2020 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
  • It's taken a while but Lions potentially might've unearthed an exciting scrumhalf in the mould of Faf de Klerk again in Morne van den Berg.
  • Affectionately nicknamed "Krappie", the 22-year-old has made a fine impression in leapfrogging some more experienced teammates in the No 9 jersey.
  • Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen believes Van den Berg has a fighting spirit similar to De Klerk, while Elton Jantjies has praised his work ethic.


The Lions over the past five years have been served well by their scrumhalves but it's safe to say none of them quite elicited as much excitement than Faf de Klerk.

The Springboks' first-choice No 9 might've become a more rounded player since moving to Sale Sharks in mid-2017 though his terrier-like determination and flair was already evident at Ellis Park.

When he left, so did much of the Lions' hustle and bustle ... until now.

On Saturday evening, coach Ivan van Rooyen will unleash Morne 'Krappie' (little crab) van den Berg against the Stormers in a Super Rugby Unlocked meeting at Newlands and there's ample reason to keep an eye on him.

The 22-year-old goes about his business in a very similar way to De Klerk.

He's a compact, quick, agile and skilful player with oodles of game-breaking ability, a trait explained by a productive stint under former Transvaal centre Hugo van As at Wits in the Varsity Cup.

Naturally, those attacking instincts will - at least for now - lead to moments of waywardness.

Back in January at Superhero Sunday at the FNB Stadium, Van den Berg announced himself to the rugby public with a brilliant solo try against the Bulls, brilliantly wriggling his way out of a tackle from the imposing Cornal Hendricks and then scything through a gaping hole at a ruck to dot down.

But 15 minutes later, a wild pass from a defensive scrum gifted the Bulls a last gasp try and a win.

He subsequently did make his Super Rugby debut before lockdown struck.

The local season's restart didn't commence expectations that he'd be a regular starter.

Yet Van den Berg impressed in the second half of Super Fan Saturday against the Stormers, sparked his team to life in a warm-up win over the Pumas and then delivered an accomplished showing as the unfortunate Dillon Smit's injury replacement against the Sharks last week.

"There maybe were a few box kicks that weren't all that accurate last weekend but given the work ethic he showed, I'm really pleased we can start Morne," said Van Rooyen.

"He really does deserve it after his last two showings for us. It's important to remember that he's only played about five or six senior games. We threw him at the deep end against the Stormers earlier this year and he performed well and last week he had to play almost 70 minutes and held his own."

In a gritty affair at King's Park, Van den Berg wasn't necessarily allowed much attacking freedom though he pleasingly showed that, like De Klerk, he doesn't mind doing the hard yards too.

He completed all five of his tackles and won two turnovers to boot.

Comparisons

Van Rooyen smiles when asked whether there's a comparison to be made between his nippy scrumhalf and one of national coach Jacques Nienaber's trump cards.

"I'm not one for trying to compare players but there's definitely a fighter's heart within Krappie," he said.

"I know many people like to make a Faf reference in that regard and it's probably easy to do so. Their respective builds are similar (Van den Berg shades the height stakes at 1.75m to 1.7m but both weigh 80kg) and their hair colour look the same. 

"One thing Faf has is that fight and Krappie has it too."

Faf de Klerk was a cult hero for the Lions

                                                      Faf de Klerk during his Lions days (Gallo Images)

Another feather in Van den Berg's cap is that his attitude and effort has been praised by halfback partner and captain, Elton Jantjies.

A coming from the ultimate workaholic, that really is a compliment.

"Krappie is a special breed. For a guy that played fullback at varsity, he's made major strides," said the Springbok flyhalf.

"He trains hard, he's tough and his willingness to learn is immense. He always wants to get better and that's a major positive sign for me in a player of his age."

As a result, Jantjies has made a point of taking him under his wing.

"He wants to serve the team. We need guys of that character. Krappie and I, during individual training, we spend a lot of time together," he said.

"We just talk to each other, areas he wants to improve, decision-making skill. I'm more than happy to provide him with guidance."

Kick-off at Newlands is 19:00.  

Teams:
Stormers

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Michal Haznar, 23 Tim Swiel

Lions

15 EW Viljoen, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole

Substitutes (from): 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 MJ Pelser, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Ross Cronje, 23 Gianni Lombard, 24, Wandisile Simelane, 25 Ruan Dreyer

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