Faf seeks to thrive where it all began

Hometown Hero Faf de Klerk is back where it all began, while Springboks take the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship clash at the Mbombela stadium on Saturday.

De Klerk was born and raised in Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit), attending Bergland Primary School and then Nelspruit High School, before completing his final three years at Hoerskool Waterkloof in Pretoria.

It was at Waterkloof where he was first coached by Pumas manager Jimmy Stonehouse, who was in charge of Waterkloof’s first team at this stage, with him later selecting De Klerk for the Premier League side. Blue Bulls Craven week as well.

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It was then Stonehouse again who gave De Klerk his big shot in senior rugby, bringing him to the Pumas in 2012, with De Klerk making 56 appearances over four seasons with them, making a name for himself before moving on to the sidelines. much bigger things.

Faf de Klerk plays for the Pumas.
Faf de Klerk first caught the eye while playing for Pumas, as seen here in 2013. Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images

“I think we last played here in 2016, so it’s quite nice to reminisce a bit about everything you’ve been through,” admitted De Klerk.

“Myself and Vince (Koch) kinda laughed with the other guys saying they don’t know what it’s like to go down that road and some of the things we had to do back then with Jimmy.

“But there are a lot of guys in this group who really had to fight to get here. You were written off as a youngster and weren’t supposed to be here. So I think we lean on that a lot and that we put a lot of energy into the game because of that.

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De Klerk is happy to be back home and can’t wait to put on a massive effort against the All Blacks in front of his home crowd.

“It (the match) is going to be huge. We showed up for a signing on Saturday morning and there was a queue of I don’t even know how many people and we saw what that means. for them,” De Klerk said.

“Obviously with the Pumas doing so well I think there’s a great rugby vibe at the moment and I think people are struggling to find somewhere to stay for the test match.

“It means there’s a lot to do on this game and people are really supporting us in Nelspruit, while I also think there’s a lot of people traveling from afar to come and watch. So the support is amazing.

Thrilling Rivalry

De Klerk is also delighted to resume his rivalry with All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith, whom he has come to know well over the years since his Bok debut.

“Aaron and I have become friends off the pitch, but we both know that once on the pitch, it’s back to business. He’s one of their key players. He’s played more than a hundred tests, which makes him incredibly successful in what he does there,” said De Klerk.

“I still have a lot to learn from him, but it’s always good to play against one of the best players in the world.”

Faf de Klerk plays for the Lions.
Faf de Klerk playing for the Lions in 2015. Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images

De Klerk is currently in a close battle for Bok’s number nine shirt, after up and coming youngster Jaden Hendrikse was preferred to him for the third tiebreak test against Wales, and with him having swapped places with him for the All Blacks Test, De Klerk will want to put down a marker.

“I think there’s always been that pressure from all the other nines. We’re five guys in the camp again and I think personally the coaches can pick anyone on the day to start and even if I don’t don’t think we’re all playing the same game, they’ll do the necessary work,” De Klerk said. .

“So I think there’s always that pressure and if you make a mistake once you might get another chance. If you do it again you might be gone because the next guy is ready to go and I think it’s so good and if you look through our whole team it’s pretty much the same.

“Whether you’re experienced or a youngster starting out, it doesn’t matter. You have to show it on the pitch. I like big games and the pressure. I think that’s where most of our guys play very well. So it’s good to have that feeling that you know you have to perform.