‘Krappie’ ready to scratch that Springbok itch

LIONS scrumhalf Morne van den Berg. | Backpagepix

LIONS scrumhalf Morne van den Berg. | Backpagepix

Published Feb 25, 2024


LET’S set the scene: It is 2008, Carisbrook in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The All Blacks are hosting the Springboks in what is turning out to be a riveting Test match at the House of Pain. It is the 75th minute and the New Zealanders are leading the contest 28-23.

The Boks have set up a simple ruck just inside the opposition’s half, the match so far dominated by the boots of Dan Carter, Butch James and Percy Montgomery. Up runs scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, who spots a gap around the fringe of the breakdown.

He snipes through the space after feigning a pass, cracking open a miserly defence which has conceded only a try so far in the clash. Acres of space reveal themselves to him as he looks up, with only All Blacks utility back Leon MacDonald in front of him.

With a deft touch, he drops the ball onto his boot, chipping the pill over the outstretched MacDonald, collecting the bouncing ball on the 5m mark and diving over for a sensational, match-winning try and a famous 30-28 victory.

It is a moment that Lions scrumhalf Morne van den Berg fondly remembers as he muses about who his No 9 hero was as a kid.

Morne van den Berg of the Emirates Lions has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Sanele Nohamba as the half-back pairing for their team this season. | BackpagePix

Said Krappie, as Van der Berg is fondly known: “Fourie du Preez, when I was growing up, was a legend.

“But I was quite a big Lions supporter, so I loved the Januarie-Andries Pretorius link-up. Januarie was the guy when I was growing up. That chip and chase in Dunedin, that is still one of my favourite tries until today.”

Van den Berg has had some thrilling moments himself in the famous red and white hoop of the Lions, but when reflecting on the memory, one gets the sense that as a 11-year-old watching Januarie 15 years ago, the now 26-year-old must have though, “that will be me one day”.

The Lions scrumhalf has certainly been putting in the work and effort over the last few seasons in the United Rugby Championship to warrant a crack in the national set-up, a dream that has become more tangible this past week when Van den Berg received an invitation to attend the Bok alignment camp early next month.

“Overwhelmed,” is how the Hoërskool Linden alumnus described the initial emotions of having his name called out at a team meeting for the honour. Afterwards, determination – for that is what Van den Berg will need oodles of, if he is to make his dream a reality.

There is fierce competition for the No 9 jumper within the Boks, with World Cup winners Faf de Klerk, Grant Williams, Jaden Hendrikse, Cobus Reinach and Herschel Jantjies to consider, and also Lions teammate Sanele Nohamba to contend with.

And while Van den Berg has had a good season so far, he is acutely aware that he will have to be even better if he is to go one step further and be awarded a Test cap.


“There is a lot of competition,” Van den Berg admitted, of the scrumhalf position within the Boks, at training at Florida Hoërskool earlier this week.

“The first thing is to just learn where you can, be coachable, and when the opportunity comes, be ready. My mindset is to learn from the players that have already been there, to be a sponge, to soak it all in, to be ready and competitive.

“The hours have led up to this,” he continued.

“Your skill level must be at a certain point. I still feel I have so much to grow, and I have so much more potential to fulfil.”

Nohamba and Krappie have made an exciting and formidable half-back pairing at the Lions this season. The scrumhalf’s service at the breakdown has been crisp and clean at times, and he is learning how to control the tempo of the game.

His box-kicks are ever improving, while he has a bit of flair in him which keeps his opponents on their toes. All of these facets of his game continue to be refined, which might be the biggest blessing ahead.

“I am excited to get to a Bok squad where I can learn and grow into that potential,” he said. “It has been a few years of hard work but there is a lot harder work to be done.

“You can always be better, and my skills can get better. The environment that you get yourself into can also help you grow.

“The Springbok environment is one of excellence. I am excited to get into that environment and to learn to grow, and to get even better in my skills, to get better in reading the game and to take the expectation of myself higher.

“That doesn’t happen there, it happens here on the field every day. It is something I keep chasing every day,” he concluded.