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How absence of de Klerk could change the dynamic of 3rd Lions Test

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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It’s quite a significant change for the Springboks not having the injured Faf de Klerk available for this Saturday’s deciding third Test versus the Lions in Cape Town. Replacement Cobus Reinach would have you believe that the only difference is that he kicks with his right foot while de Klerk kicks with his left, but Warren Gatland doesn’t agree.  


What you get with de Klerk is a 29-year-old with 32 caps, 29 as a starter, whereas with Reinach you have a 31-year-old with 14 caps – and just five of those coming as a starter. 

Aside from experience, there are also differences in how the Springboks might play minus de Klerk and his absence could also change the confrontational dynamics that have been evident in the past two Test matches and in the South Africa A game versus the Lions where de Klerk was yellow-carded for an incident the tourists felt could have been a red card. 

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What Warren Gatland wants to speak to the referees about this week
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What Warren Gatland wants to speak to the referees about this week

“It possibly changes the way they [the Springboks] look at things, whether they play more off 10 with (Handre) Pollard as they did last weekend,” reckoned Gatland, sizing up a de Klerk-less opposition. “Pollard kicked a lot more in the second Test, so they may revert to that. Faf’s left foot game and the way he defends, everything is on the edge with him and he is pretty feisty.

“The message to our players this week is we got a little annoyed with the pushing and shoving and things that were going on and we just need to make sure we stay away from that, just concentrate on the rugby and let the referee make the decisions and make sure we are not grabbing and holding each other and guys running in and pushing players in the back and those sort of things. 

“I don’t think the game needs that. I know everyone is on edge and there is a little pushing and shoving at times, but you have just got to ignore that and make sure we go back and are playing the game properly.” The reason for de Klerk’s absence is a soft tissue injury likely to sideline him for between three to five weeks, meaning he will also miss the start of the Rugby Championship as well as this Saturday’s Lions Test decider. 


Asked whether there are differences between him and de Klerk, Reinach suggested: “So Faf is left, I am right-footed. I don’t think it matters too much. You only have to put the spin on the other side, everything else stays the same. We all know what to do, we all have our jobs and it doesn’t change if it’s me or Faf or Herschel (Jantjies), we know exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s just for us to go out there and execute it to the best of our ability.”


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