Cape Town - Springbok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk says being a part of the Lions squad over the past three seasons has played a major role in his development and inclusion in the Springbok starting lineup for Saturday's Test against Ireland in Cape Town.
De Klerk, who moved to the Lions on loan from the Pumas in 2014, will make his debut in front of a packed Newlands.
READ: FAF ALWAYS BELIEVED HE COULD BE A BOK
While his move to Ellis Park was only made permanent ahead of the current Super Rugby season, De Klerk attributes his rise to the top to being a part of the Lions setup.
"I think it comes from the team (Lions). If the team is playing well then it makes it easier for us to play well as individuals," he said.
"Playing in mainly the same team for three years … you tend to know each other a lot more and you build a team.
"I've also just been working really hard on my basics … my passing and my kicking."
De Kock is a naturally instinctive player, and allowing him the freedom to play his own game while also adhering to a game plan seems to be the challenge.
"I’d like our players to become smarter," coach Allister Coetzee said.
"I cannot put Faf into a box and change him altogether, but I can help Faf to make better decisions. This game is not about hitting sixes … it’s not Pro20 … it’s about building an innings and I’m sure Faf understands that well.
"It’s about building an innings and when the opportunity is there, to pounce on it. It comes from good decision-making and reading the game … getting a feel for when we are under pressure and when we’re riding the wave. I think Faf and Pat Lambie will be hoping to do that well."
Coetzee added that De Klerk's attributes were more complex than simply being the link between forwards and backs.
"His kicking game and his passing game … his core skills … are really good," said Coetzee.
"The breakdown area could become a mess so you also you need your No 9 to get there rapidly to get the ball out and he’s one of those players that can do that.
"I don’t think any opposition should just think about Faf as a link, because they’ll make a mistake.
"He keeps the guys honest around the rucks and mauls and that is what I like to see, Faf must just play his game. His awareness and feel for the game is important."
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Rudy Paige 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Jesse Kriel
15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best (captain) 1 Jack McGrath
Substitutes: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Finlay Bealham, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Kieran Marmion 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Craig Gilroy