Faf de Klerk is one of the most famous and identifiable rugby players on the oval planet. But many people wonder: where does this first name Faf come from? In fact, this is a common abbreviation of Francois in Afrikaans. His former teammate Francois Steyn was nicknamed “Frans”. De Klerk is from Nelspruit, a town in northeastern South Africa, close to the borders with Eswatini and Mozambique. He is not related to Frederik De Klerk (1936-2021), the former South African president who ended apartheid, freed Nelson Mandela and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with him in 1993 .
If Faf de Klerk has today become an executive in the South African squad, notably being a key element in winning the 2019 title in Japan, it took a long time for him to establish himself in the national team. He was then considered too small (1.72 m for 88 kg), not strong enough in a selection known for its mirror cabinets and XXL physiques. A criticism also made of winger Cheslin Kolbe, who has also become essential in the national team. Former coach Allister Coetzee did not count on De Klerk and we had to wait for the arrival of Rassie Eramus, who arrived when South Africa was going through one of the worst sporting crises in its history (8 defeats in 2017), so that he finally gets his chance. Less than two years later, South Africa won the third world title in its history after 1995 and 2007.
Seeing that his international future was blocked, Faf de Klerk chose to go into exile in England with the Sale Sharks in 2017. A profitable choice since he quickly shone with the club from the suburbs of Manchester, he was even elected in the typical Premiership team at the end of his first season, in 2018. He rediscovered his pleasure of playing and developed his kicking game, which is now one of his strong points. “The most important thing when I arrived at Sale was that I was given a role in which I had to make a difference,” he explained. I had a lot of responsibility: in the way we wanted to play, the way we wanted to use the kicking game, the way we worked on our runs. Top performances which quickly came to the ears of Rassie Erasmus. In 2018, the Boks scrum-half was one of the nominees for the player of the year title, ultimately awarded to Irish fly-half Jonathan Sexton.
In the land of rough and difficult men, the scrum halfs have a preponderant role in navigating these packs of golgoths. Before settling and shining at the scrum-half position, Faf de Klerk played at fly-half in high school. And when he was younger, he had an idol: the number 9 of the 1995 world champion Springboks, Joost van der Westhuizen. He also posted a photo on his Instagram account where, as a kid, he posed alongside “VDW”, who died in 2017 at the age of 45 from Charcot disease. Like his model, De Klerk is a particularly tough scrum-half in combat, despite his slight physique. Several former 1995 world champions contacted them before the final against New Zealand. “They sent us a few messages. Some came to training, we have all their support, said De Klerk. We know that they made the people proud and that today, they are proud of us.”
Faf de Klerk does not lack humor. He regularly poses in the most eccentric disguises. And the image of him, posing with the Webb-Ellis Cup in underwear in the colors of the South African flag, made the rounds on social networks. He is also known for his beautiful blonde hair, which has earned him comparisons to Prince Charming from the Shrek cartoons. On social networks, he regularly poses with his wife Miné van Niekerk, just as blonde as him. Before the finale, when asked how he spends his long days, he couldn't help but joke: "I spend a lot of time taking care of my hair!" A joke that Clément, the turbulent president and sole member of his French fan club, would not have denied.