A telling contribution in Sale’s 24-18 win against English Premiership defending champions Saracens put the finishing touches on Faf de Klerk’s emergence as the best defensive scrumhalf in the world.
“Arguably no player is more valuable to Sale than Faf, who possesses game-changing ability on both sides of the ball,” was the conclusion of a review published by RugbyPass. “He is the best defensive halfback in the world, with a valid case for the title of the very best based on his work in the last twelve months.”
It’s not an isolated view as De Klerk was the only scrumhalf shortlisted for the 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year award. And it’s an opinion that would get much support from Bok fans who cheered the combative halfback’s fearless defensive efforts in a season that included an epic win against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
De Klerk’s timing and anticipation was well utilised in a Bok defensive system that deployed him as a roving blitzer in line defence more than in kick coverage, and the same role at Sale has made the 21-Test halfback a fan-favourite at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The review also credited the scrumhalf for his part in Sale’s attack and kicking game – his speed used to launch set-piece forays while De Klerk’s big (if not always accurate) boot is central to a kicking game designed to limit opponents from deploying their lineout attack.