Faf de Klerk
Just prior to the World Cup an illustrious British newspaper listed Faf de Klerk as the only South African in their “Top 20 Best Players at the World Cup.” That would have been based on De Klerk’s form for Sale Sharks in the English Premiership and for the Boks in 2018.
Unfortunately, the 27-year-old has not lived up to that billing in Japan. De Klerk has been the butt of a host of jokes around his ceaseless kicking in the opening match against the All Blacks, but I have no issue with that because he was following instructions.
My problem is that his kicks were not accurate enough. De Klerk is not a skilful kicker and he is not being allowed to play his natural game of sniping around the rucks. In the play-offs, the kicking strategy is going to continue, and Rassie will again pick Faf to do it.
The coach is not going to make a change in a vital position at this stage of the game but if he knew at the start of the tournament what he knows now, he might have selected differently.
A series of sparkling performances for the Stormers earlier this year caught Rassie’s eye and the youngster was fast-tracked into the Bok set-up as the coach looked to redress his quandary at No 9. And boy has the 23-year-old taken his chance.
His tries against the Wallabies in Johannesburg and the All Blacks in Wellington were out of the top drawer and reminiscent of a young Joost van der Westhuizen, especially that opportunistic break down the blind side of a ruck against the Aussies.
But apart from his finesse as a try poacher, Jantjies’ basics are very good. Of the three Bok scrumhalves, he has the snappiest pass and his box kicking is better than De Klerk’s. Jantjies has the ingredients to become a Springbok great but in my opinion he is still a touch raw to start. He has at least two more World Cups in him, and I would go for the more experienced De Klerk and Reinach ahead of him as starters, but he must unquestionably be the game-changer in the last quarter of the play-off games.
In my opinion the best South African scrumhalf in Japan. My frustration is that Rassie didn’t pick him when he was playing so brilliantly for Northampton. He and Faf were consistently winning Man of the Match performances for their teams and if they had both been brought back for the series against England last year, Erasmus would have been spared the pain of the back-up problem.
In 2015 he should have been the back-up to Fourie du Preez but lost out at the last minute to Rudy Paige, and this year his opportunity to state his case (in the Canada game) has probably come too late for the coach to rethink his No 9 pecking order. Reinach’s hat-trick exhibited his exceptional attacking qualities, especially his blistering pace (inherited from his father, Jaco, the Springbok right wing in 1986). The former Shark is now 29 and richly experienced, as evidenced by his excellent anticipation and reading of the game. Also against Canada, Reinach’s box kicks were pin-point accurate and the ball was won back by the chasers on a number of occasions.