Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2019 - Quarter Final - Japan v South Africa - Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - October 20, 2019. South Africa's Faf de Klerk celebrates scoring their second try. Picture: REUTERS / MATTHEW CHILDS
Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2019 - Quarter Final - Japan v South Africa - Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - October 20, 2019. South Africa's Faf de Klerk celebrates scoring their second try. Picture: REUTERS / MATTHEW CHILDS

Tokyo — Get off Faf de Klerk’s back‚ hulking teammate Duane Vermeulen has urged critics after the Springboks reached the Rugby World Cup semifinals.

De Klerk was instrumental in the Springboks’ 26-3 win over Japan and scooped the man-of-the-match award for his performance.

The scrumhalf was incisive and snappy behind an admittedly marauding pack as the Boks became the only non-pool winning team to reach the last four.

Apart from understanding the Bok game plan, De Klerk’s communication skills are often overlooked. Earlier in the tournament the scrumhalf took flak for his performance against New Zealand in Yokohama.

Often the criticism is raised that he kicks too much possession away but that is exactly the instruction under which he operates. He could perhaps have executed those kicks better in Yokohama.

Vermeulen, though, has taken note of the criticism of De Klerk.

“He is a guy who is always under pressure in SA‚” he said. “I don’t want to say just the media‚ but the people out there ask why do we kick so much? We have a set game plan and we have to stick to that game plan.

“He knows how to play the game and he also keeps to that game plan. It doesn’t matter what the people say we know what we want to do and we prepare how to isolate the teams we play. It is fantastic to see him put in a man-of-the-match performance‚ fantastic.”

De Klerk was satisfied with his performance.

“I made a few errors that I can work on. Overall I was happy with my performance, but you can always be better‚” said the scrumhalf.

Apart from a solid overall performance De Klerk also benefited from arguably the most destructive maul at this World Cup. The Boks marched the Japan pack back for 40m before Malcolm Marx peeled away and passed to the speeding De Klerk who ran in to score.

De Klerk delighted in the moment. “I looked at Lood [de Jager] and started laughing out of disbelief at how we kept the maul going. Lood just kept saying ‘keep it in‚ keep it in’.

“Credit must go to the forwards in that moment of pressure‚ to drive out of our own half and get a try from it. It was a huge game-changer for us‚” said De Klerk.