South Africa’s Faf de Klerk catches the ball during the Rugby World Cup semi-final match against Wales. AP
Diminutive scrum-half Faf de Klerk defied the odds and made his presence felt on the pitch with a stellar performance to guide South Africa to the rugby World Cup final with victory over Wales on Sunday.
Springboks will face Wales England, who stunned world champions New Zealand in the other semi-final a day earlier, on Nov.2.
South African giant forwards were making headlines before the match in the World Cup but de Klerk defied the norms and proved that rugby is still the game for the people of all shapes and all sizes.
After the first half ended in South Africa leading the game 9-6, de Klerk stepped up to lead the charge with a few improvisation.
The 28-year-old, who spend his time with English Premiership side Sale for sharpening his game, was seen in both attack and defence.
He caught Wales napping with blindside break off a scrum before kicking into open space and chasing up his own punt.
He then made light work of a considerable size difference to tap-tackle George North as the powerhouse Wales wing looked to counter-attack.
One of de Klerk’s better box kicks was then just inches away from being regathered by wing Makazole Mapimpi.
He insisted he was in no way frustrated at playing what Wales coach Warren Gatland labelled an “effective” if often unspectacular kicking game.
“No not really,” de Klerk told reporters.
“We’ve bought in to what we want to do every week. Part of our success is that everybody is on the same page with that.
“I’m pretty excited for when I get a good kick up in the air and I can really start chasing because I know it’s a fifty-fifty.”
De Klerk proved his worth again in the defence with another fine tap-tackle on North that snuffed out the threat of a rare Welsh visit to the Springboks’ 22.
He also found himself fronting up to the towering Jake Ball, with de Klerk grinning broadly as the towering Wales lock grabbed his collar.
“We are great friends mate, it was just a nice moment between us. No, I’m just joking,” de Klerk said.
“I do enjoy getting physical. It’s part of the game and you need to be up for it, especially against a team like Wales.
“So if I can, the smallest guy on the pitch, maybe add a bit of that, it just gives a bit of motivation to the rest (of the team). I need to be up for it as well.”
De Klerk marshalled the backline effectively, linking well with fly-half Pollard, in the build-up to centre Damian de Allende’s converted try that saw the Springboks into a 16-9 lead in the 57th minute.
At the other end of the pitch, he was on hand to cover a Rhys Patchell kick into the in-goal area as Wales pressed for a try.
And with just a couple of minutes left to play, de Klerk kept his composure superbly to produce a chip behind the defence that bounced into touch to set up a line-out deep into Wales’ 22 that helped the Springboks close out the game.
“Amazing, I don’t think I’ve any words to describe it,” said de Klerk of knowing he was now a World Cup finalist. “It’s a bit surreal being out there and getting the win.
“But we know there’s one final goal that we need to reach, so on to the next one.”
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