Morne van den Berg: Lions’ No 9 ‘Krappie’ ready to scratch that Springbok itch

Morne van den Berg of the Emirates Lions passes a ball when his team played against the Stormers in the Super 15 Rugby unlocked at Newlands Stadium

File. Lions scrumhalf Morne van den Berg has certainly been putting in the work over the last few seasons in the United Rugby Championship to warrant a crack in the Springbok squad. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Feb 24, 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. Up runs scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, who spots a gap around the fringe of the breakdown. He snipes through the space after feigning a pass. 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 it over 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 remembers as he muses about who his No 9 hero was as a kid. Said Krappie, as Van der Berg is fondly known: “Fourie du Preez, when I was growing up, was a legend.

‘Januarie was the guy when I was growing up’

“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.

He has certainly been putting in the work 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 next month.

“Overwhelmed,” is how the Hoërskool Linden alumnus described the emotions of having his name called out at a team meeting for the honour.

There is fierce competition for the No 9 jumper within the Boks, with Rugby 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. “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 … 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.

“I’m excited to get to a Bok squad where I can learn and grow into that potential,” he said. “The Springbok environment is one of excellence. I’m 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. … It is something I keep chasing every day.”


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