Kriel backs Boks’ zeal

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That was the advice from Jesse Kriel to the Springbok backline for Saturday’s massive clash against England at Twickenham.

There was a real possibility of Kriel running out at fullback in front of 80 000 spectators in the first Test of the November tour, but an untimely calf injury against the Barbarians last week ruled him out for the rest of the trip.

But he is positive the Boks can hit back from their 57-15 thrashing at the hands of the All Blacks in their last Test against Eddie Jones’s high-riding England side, who are on a 10-match winning streak.

The wet weather expected in London on Saturday may dictate tactics, but Kriel believes the Boks can still make good use of their possession.

“My heart is bleeding, not to be able to play. Very disappointed.

“But it’s part of rugby and I’m sure the guys are going to be great,” the Bulls utility back said at Newlands on Friday on the sidelines of the launch of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Cup in which the Boks will face the Proteas in a T20 cricket match next month.

“Big, physical game and I think the breakdown is also going to be a really big challenge.

“(The backline) just making the one-on-one tackles, I think it is going to be a big defensive effort.

“The team that make their hits and win the gain-line will do well.

“Set-phase defence will be big and I think if we take the ball wide, look after our ball, recycle the ball and keep that retention, just go score some tries!”

Kriel felt there was a new breeze blowing through the Bok side on this tour after the troubles of the Rugby Championship, and that the arrival of backline consultant Franco Smith and defence coach JP Ferreira has also brought a renewed vigour to the squad. “What’s great about coach Allister (Coetzee) is that he’s brought all these guys who add value and the team can benefit from.

“The environment can only get stronger and the players can get more experience and learn more things, to get better. They bring a good energy - Franco on attack, and with the backs (Mzwandile) Stick, and JP on defence - it’s something exciting going forward,” the 22-year-old said.

“I’m sure the guys are going to be up for it and Twickenham is going to be amazing, it’s going to be great.

“The mood was great, and we had a good week of prep for the Barbarians game. The result wasn’t bad - obviously we wanted a win, but guys like Bryan (Habana) and JP (Pietersen) coming back, bring a lot of confidence into the squad, a lot of stability.

“I don’t think there is a lack of confidence. The guys are really confident and excited, and it’s going to be a great one.”

Kriel will be sidelined for the next three weeks, and hopes to “sort out” a few other injury issues, but he will be back for the Bulls in Super Rugby.

And having played at No 15 in the Baabaas game, the former SA Under-20 star may make a permanent shift from outside centre.

“Yoh, loved it! Unfortunately it was against the Barbarians and they didn’t kick much, so I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to counter and stuff like that.

“But it was nice to be there, nice to be at the back and see how the whole game unfolds in front of you. I really enjoyed it,” Kriel said.

“(Playing at fullback) all depends on what the coaches want to do and what’s best for the team. Wherever I get selected, I will just do my best,” he added.

“Whichever position you’re playing in, you prefer that because you’re enjoying it at the time. No personal preference, but I think I need to make a decision going forward.”

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Weekend Argus

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