Faf de Klerk. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
- Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk would’ve loved the opportunity for his team to turn back the clock and play the first five minutes of the second half of the first Test over again.
- That period, he believes, is arguably where the South Africans lost their grip against the British & Irish Lions, who roared back to win 22-17.
- But De Klerk also believes the Boks have much to look forward to and that their wounded state makes them more dangerous.
If Faf de Klerk could turn back time, he’d want the Springboks to replay the first five minutes of the second half of the first Test against the British & Irish Lions.
South Africa’s terrier-like scrumhalf, who also lacked some of his usual accuracy, was candid in pointing out that passage of play as the catalyst for the hosts losing their grip on the match.
Armed with a comfortable 12-3 lead at half-time, the Boks put themselves under immediate pressure when Kwagga Smith was put under pressure at the breakdown and conceded a penalty, literally 30 seconds after the restart.
That allowed the Lions to gain crucial territory, who were then handed further momentum by Eben Etzebeth’s high tackle.
From that resulting kick to touch, the visitors launched the rolling maul that led to Luke Cowan-Dickie’s try.
It was exactly the break Warren Gatland’s troops needed, despite De Klerk initially restoring South Africa’s comfortable lead with his own score.
“I believe our discipline slipped in the second half,” said De Klerk after the 17-22 defeat.
“If we could play the first five minutes of that half over again, there probably would’ve been a different outcome. It was a really close game with a few decisions that could’ve gone the other way. Not wrong ones.
“There was a lot of disappointment in the dressing room, the boys are really gutted. But it’s a three-match series and we need to hold our heads high.”
The 29-year-old halfback rejected suggestions that the Boks were perhaps complacent, particularly after their encouraging showing in the first 40.
“I definitely don’t think the Lions were better than we thought they’d be,” he said.
“They are a quality side and the challenge for us, from a Lions point of view, is that the guy that comes off the bench is probably better or just as good as the guy that’s playing (in the starting line-up).”
While it was undeniable that the Boks’ lack of match fitness became apparent in them becoming progressively flatter in terms of intensity, De Klerk believes the home side didn’t play as badly as popularly perceived.
“The first half went really well. We won a lot of aerial balls back and we hoped it would continue in the second. We got good outcomes from many kicks, but the Lions were just much better in winning the loose ball. We have some homework,” he said.
“There were great learnings and we’re positive. In all honesty, I believe we’re far closer to the way we want to play than people think.”
In what can be considered a warning of sorts, De Klerk reminded his opponents that the Springboks are arguably more dangerous when they’re on the back foot, boding well for keeping the series alive next weekend.
“We are a proud team, a proud nation,” he said.
“We definitely will make sure we rectify the errors that we made. We are wounded Springboks, we like having our backs against the wall and we can fight our way out of that.”