Born and raised in Mbombele (formerly Nelspruit), De Klerk attended Bergland Primary School and then Nelspruit High School before finishing his last three years at Hoerskool Waterkloof in Pretoria.
It was at Waterkloof that he was first coached by Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse, who at that stage managed the first Waterkloof team and then also selected De Klerk for the Blue Bulls Craven team’s weekdays.
It was then that Stonehouse again gave De Klerk his big break in senior rugby, bringing him to the Pumas in 2012 where De Klerk made 56 appearances with them over four seasons, making a name for himself before moving on to bigger things.
“I think the last time we played here was in 2016. So it’s nice to reminisce a bit about everything you’ve been through,” De Klerk admitted.
“Me and Vince (Koch) had a little laugh with the other guys saying that they don’t know what it’s like to do this route and some of the things that we had to do in our time with Jimmy.
“But there are a lot of guys in this group who really struggled to get here. You were written off as a teenager and you shouldn’t have been here. So I think we rely on that a lot, and because of that, we put a lot of energy into the game.”
De Klerk is happy to be back home and is looking forward to making a huge effort against the All Blacks in front of his home crowd.
“This (match) will be massive. We got together for an autograph session on Saturday morning and there was a line, I don’t even know how many people, and we saw what it meant to them,” De Klerk said.
“Obviously things are going so well with the Pumas, I think there’s a great rugby vibe right now and I think people are struggling to find a place to stay for a test match.
“It means a lot depends on this game and people really support us in Nelspruit, while I also think there are a lot of people coming from far and wide to come and see. So the support is amazing.”
De Klerk is also excited to renew his rivalry with All Blacks scrumhuff Aaron Smith, whom he has known well in the years since his Bok debut.
“Aaron and I have become friends off the field, but we both know that once we get on the field, everything will be back to business. He is one of their key players. He played over a hundred Tests, which makes him incredibly successful at what he did there,” said De Klerk.
“I still have a lot to learn from him, but it’s always a pleasure to play against one of the best players in the world.”
De Klerk is currently in a tight battle for Bok’s number nine jersey after young and rookie Jayden Hendricks was favored over him for the third test decider against Wales and since he traded places with him in the All Blacks test, De Klerk will want to put a marker .
“I think there was always pressure from all the other nines. Now there are five of us in the camp again and I think that personally the coaches can choose anyone that day to start the game, and although I do not think that we are all playing the same game, they will do the job that is needed, ”said De Klerk. .
“So I think there’s always that pressure, and if you get it wrong once, maybe you’ll get another chance. If you do it one more time, maybe you left because the next guy is ready to leave and I think it’s so good and if you look at our whole team you will see the same thing.
“Whether you were experienced or young, it doesn’t really matter. You must show it on the field. I really like big games and pressure. I think this is where most of our guys play very well. So it’s good to have the feeling that you know you need to perform.”