De Klerk kicks social media stick into touch

South Africa scrum-half insists he will carry on putting boot to ball despite criticism of his tactics on Twitter.

TOKYO, 23 Oct - Most social media memes involving South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk have centred on his flowing blond locks. His long hair has been portrayed in a number of ways, as a surfer, a pony, or even as a model for a fake shampoo commercial, below.

But there is a newer one – the 'Faf foot'. It stems from Bok supporters who feel De Klerk, above, kicks the ball too often during matches. The meme, showing a bruised and bloodied foot, was popular again after South Africa’s 26-3 victory over Japan in the quarter-final.

Fans have urged De Klerk – who was named Player of the Match against the host nation - to bin the box-kick, which they say is a waste of possession. 

But the half-back, who was regarded as a ball-playing runner when he first arrived on the test scene in 2016, has explained the rationale behind his actions. 

"We do kick a lot, but we try to read the game and the momentum. So, if you look at last weekend, we did kick a lot in the air, and Japan managed to contain our aerial battle," De Klerk said.

"But if you look further than that, we managed to get so much territorial gain on them with our defence, with the guys being loaded on that.

"It was a very positive outcome when we kicked. We did give them possession, but they rarely managed to do anything with it.

"It is going to be a different challenge this week (against Wales). I don’t think we are going to have the same threats as that (from Japan). It’s all about seeing the space, and I feel our wings have come so far over the last two years. They are really competing well in the air.

"They (Wales) have got very good wingers, so it is going to be a massive battle in the air. We don’t always go out with a set plan of me just going up and kicking. We do read the game, and I listen a lot to what Handre (Pollard) is telling me."

The 28-year-old, who has 28 test caps and plays his club rugby in England for Sale Sharks, does usually see the lighter side of those memes.

"Some things are really funny, and I enjoy some of the stuff. There is a lot of humour in it. Some guys get a bit personal – but people love the Springboks and are very invested in the team.

"If they see something go wrong or don't agree with something, it’s not because they are negative, but because they are invested. We appreciate that as players. We know we have great supportive people behind us."

South Africa assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, meanwhile, is hopeful winger Cheslin Kolbe will be fit to face Wales, although he missed the full training session on Tuesday.

Kolbe was replaced by Frans Steyn in the 72nd minute against Japan, having recovered from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the last pool match against Canada.

"We are trying to manage him and give him the best opportunity to recover. Hopefully, he will be ready," Stick said.

RNS am/js/icr/bo