Cape Town - Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, man-of-the-match in this past weekend's 26-3 quarter-final win over Japan, has paid tribute to the Sale Sharks for helping develop his game. 

De Klerk, dating back to his time with the Lions in Super Rugby, has long been considered an enterprising scrumhalf with X-factor capable of sparking attacks out of nothing. 

Since joining Sale in the English Premiership in 2017, though, the 28-year-old has added a couple of new dimensions to his game.

It might be generating a lot of criticism from back home, but De Klerk believes that his time in Europe has helped him control things better with his boot and that has been evident throughout South Africa's charge at the World Cup in 2019. 

Defence, De Kerk adds, is another area where he has improved. 

"The main thing for me when I got to Sale was I got put in a role where I needed to make a difference in the team," he said on Wednesday ahead of Sunday's semi-final against Wales.

"A lot of responsibility came my way in terms of how we want to play, how we want to kick, how we want to play our running game.

"I started kicking for poles a lot more, started doing tee-offs. That all helped me a lot to get to where I am now. I played a lot of rugby, got a lot of starts. The head coach, Steve Diamond, backed me continuously."

The defensive structure of the Boks has been one of their standout features in Japan, highlighted by a massive defensive effort against the hosts in the quarter-final.

De Klerk earned many plaudits for his defensive effort in that match.

"It might look a bit role-less, but there is a bit of a role going on there," he said.

"It’s not just willy-nilly and running around. I need to fill certain spaces, and make sure we are covered on both sides of the ruck, and make sure the numbers are right.

"As nines in our system, we need to make sure we come off the line and our numbers are correct on both sides.

"I try to do well for the team and create a turnover, and that’s one great thing about this team – everybody is up for it. We saw this past week the boys were nice and physical, and we’ve been speaking a lot about that

"The boys really pitched up. Hopefully they will just get better and better, and take it forward."

The Boks will name their side for Sunday's semi-final on Thursday, and kick-off will be at 11:00 (SA time). 

- Compiled by Lloyd Burnard