Bok discard still adds value to Lions
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Francois de Klerk may be surplus to requirements in the Springbok set-up, but he remains a valuable asset to the Lions.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann, speaking to rugby365 ahead of their Round Six encounter with the Sharks in Johannesburg this coming Saturday, said he still rates De Klerk.
The axing of the 25-year-old, who started in nine of South Africa's Tests last year and played off the bench in two others, has been one of the main talking points after Bok coach Allister Coetzee named 40-odd players for a training camp in Stellenbosch next week.
Ackermann admitted that there is no player who doesn't have something to work on.
"Francois [De Klerk] will be the first to say there are some work-ons," the Lions mentor said.
"I have not spoken to Allister [Coetzee] or any of the other Springbok coaches to find out the reasons for his axing.
"However, in our system, we have three very good scrumhalves and some very good juniors - with Ross [Cronje], Dillon [Smit] and Francois [De Klerk].
"They push each other all the time."
He said De Klerk still does what is expected of him in the Lions team.
"At times I will utilise him in a different role or maybe rotate him with Ross."
Ackermann said they have no plans to discard De Klerk and will continue treating him the same way as they have done before.
"He has a specific role he plays in the team and for us, he is very valuable in terms of what he brings [to the game]," the coach told rugby365.
"We are very happy with him as player and person.
"As I have said, there are always aspects of any player's game we can work on and we will continue to work with him."
Ackermann also dismissed the notion that De Klerk's passing game is an issue.
"He is a player that gets a lot of freedom," he said, adding: "Sometimes he should have passed when he ran, or ran when he passed.
"He may well have been in two minds and then it influenced his pass. It is about the decision-making.
"Sometimes his passing isn't that great, but that could happen to any player.
"There is no doubt he will always be able to work on his passing, just like he can always work on his box-kicking. Then he can also work on his decision-making.
"We have a number of players who have aspects of their game to fix.
"He [De Klerk] brings something to our team that suits us and what we are happy about.
"We just have to keep on working with him and give him that confidence."
By Jan de Koning