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De Klerk's aim was to rattle Aaron Smith

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    23 Dec 2018     Getty Images

Springbok Faf de Klerk told The Daily Mail that since leaving the Lions in Johannesburg and transferring to Sale in England's Premiership he had become a specialist at harassing opponents and that was the key to getting under the All Blacks', and Aaron Smith's especially, skin.

"I enjoy putting teams under pressure, forcing turnovers and just being a pain really!" he said.

"People know how good Smith is and what he brings to the team, but as a nine playing in that team, you are so comfortable.

"You're never under pressure and you're always getting front-foot ball.

"I started doing it at Sale, where I'd seen other nines who seemed to have a lot of time and I realised that I really needed to put them under pressure. We started that here [at Sale]. We put teams under a lot of pressure and won a lot of turnovers from it," he said.

That's where the strategy to be employed against Smith emerged.

"With South Africa, we picked up that Smith was a bit too comfortable behind the rucks, so we got in their faces and I tried to get in his face.

"I knew they just expected him to be at every ruck, to deliver quick ball, so I had to hit him and keep him on the ground a second longer," he said.

De Klerk said that had been a strategy that worked. It had also helped the Springboks in their 2-1 series victory over England during the June window.

Having established himself with Sale, the club is keen to keep him involved in their plans for several more seasons.

But while committing himself to the club, he also has an eye on Japan next year for the Rugby World Cup and the opening game which will be South Africa against the All Blacks again.

"That first game is going to be amazing," he said.

"We can turn everything on its head and surprise a lot of people. One of Rassie's [coach Erasmus] main points was that if we can beat New Zealand away, our chances of winning the World Cup will go up so much more.

"We've done that, so we know we can beat them in that pool game on neutral ground," he said.