Why Willie and Faf are overrated Springboks

Willie le Roux. Photo: Gallo Images.

Rassie Erasmus has actually worked wonders in making two such fundamentally flawed players the cornerstones of his national team.

Before this becomes a hugely unpopular instead of just an unpopular column, let’s get something out of the way.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has done a very good job of making Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux cornerstones of his national side.

Not once has he explicitly claimed that these two mercurial players are messiahs of South African rugby, but Erasmus has also backed them to the hilt.

For Erasmus, the pieces of brilliance outweigh the utterly frustrating moments of madness and, to be frank, ineptness.

Many local rugby fans rejoice that the Springboks have these two mavericks.

I believe it’s unbelievably sad that the national team needs to rely so heavily on two fundamentally flawed players.

Le Roux, to me, is not a world-class fullback.

His attacking prowess makes him a decent option as an impact player, but he’s actually not a good player at this level.

Le Roux’s kicking game is a massive weakness, as evidenced by some of the hacks he booted in Paris, his defence remains underpowered and his decision-making suspect.

The last point is very important.

The 29-year-old operates almost fully on instinct – seldom will he be able to replicate the good thing he did on a field 10 minutes later.

One of his “trademark” skip passes will create space and momentum to score points.

But three of those will also occur with him crowding every other member of the backline through a diagonal run BEFORE he actually passes.

Le Roux is the embodiment of a player whose left hand doesn’t know what he right does.

To “survive” playing like that at this level, you need a healthy dose of confidence and he undoubtedly does have that.

However, it also leads to moments of sheer impetuosity like his forward pass to what should’ve been Aphiwe Dyantyi’s winning try at the weekend.

To me, that piece of play was arrogant and lazy, especially for a man with 51 international caps.

Imagine that happening in a World Cup semifinal…

De Klerk has been good in 2018 and currently he’s undoubtedly the best scrumhalf the Boks possess.

What makes him better than Le Roux is that he does have one fundamental aspect of his position nailed down – his service is consistently snappy.

Yet his kicking, especially from the base, is invariably more reflexive than considered and as we saw in Paris, when the decision-making goes haywire, it’s an ugly sight.

De Klerk also suffers from the same bouts of rash decision-making as Le Roux, particularly on defence like we saw with his hit on French flyhalf Camille Lopez.

It wasn’t horrendously bad, but it was still inconsiderate and led to what French fans believed was the winning penalty.

De Klerk still has time to grow and become more versatile, but he nonetheless needs to be bracketed in the same category as Le Roux.

He is overrated exactly because the Springboks and their fans don’t know if the grass might be greener with Embrose Papier or Ivan van Zyl, simply because the these two men don’t get picked enough!

Papier’s service is just as efficient as De Klerk’s – we saw that at Twickenham – and as a schoolboy prodigy he was touted as a halfback with the potential to have a very good kicking game.

During his short time at the Bulls, John Mitchell raved over Van Zyl’s defensive abilities, especially his organisation.

I also don’t buy the argument that his service is slower and his attacking game inferior when he was such an integral part of Mitchell’s attacking game at Loftus.

In fact, the Boks were far more fluent on the attack with a more “sluggish” Van Zyl at No 9 against England than they were with De Klerk in Paris.

World class players fall back on their unfashionable skills and duties when the going gets tough and shelve moments of magic for when they’re most appropriate.

After all, Test rugby isn’t a carnival with candyfloss stands.

And that’s not Le Roux and De Klerk’s forte.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

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