Johannesburg - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer surprised dynamic Lions flanker Jaco Kriel with a call to inform him of his inclusion in the South African squad for the outgoing tour, starting against Ireland next weekend.
"It was an unknown number that phoned me on Sunday, I answered and I had this hope in me that it would be the coach," Kriel said.
"He asked me if I knew who was speaking...I said 'no' and he said it was Heyneke Meyer and I smiled 'this big' and my heart was beating and I was overwhelmed.
"Getting into the squad has been a massive privilege and it is just a way to shows hard work pays off."
Born and bred in Standerton, a Mpumalanga town on the banks of the Vaal River, Kriel had been drafted by the Golden Lions where he worked his way up the ladder from the under-19 and under-21 teams.
Kriel made his Currie Cup debut for the Golden Lions in 2010 before running out in his first Super Rugby match for the Johannesburg franchise against the Hurricanes in Wellington in 2011.
He has since grown in stature, earning a regular starting berth showing agility with the ball in hand and a work ethic second to none.
This year proved to be a watershed year for Kriel, showing he was equally comfortable as a ball scavenger in his role as openside flanker during the Super Rugby competition.
Kriel credits the philosophy Lions coach Johan Ackermann, who instilled in his charges that the team had to come first for the individuals to prosper.
"The Lions did quite well playing for each other and coach Ackies (Ackermann) said if you play for each other the individuals will start to stand out and I've been one of the fortunate ones."
"Super Rugby was a more difficult competition so a defensive effort and at the breakdown for a flanker was more appreciated by the coaches compared to Currie Cup where you can play a bit more with the ball."
Although Kriel's selection was confirmation that he could play at the highest level, he was under no illusions that there was some hard work ahead for him to stake a claim in the Springbok side.
"The training sessions have been great -- it is a step-up in intensity -- we've been learning a lot from the senior guys and it's only been the beginning.
"It is different from your provincial team but you adapt to the Springbok game plan and you learn from some of the best loose forwards in the world.
Being included in the national team was a massive honour, he said.
"I am not just going to walk into the team, I am really going to work hard for a spot. Even if I don't get game time, it is not the end of the world because it is still a massive learning curve for me."
Kriel singled out former Springbok flanker Wikus van Heerden -- who he had played with from 2010 to 2012 -- as an influential player on his career.
"I've looked up to Wikus from being a young man to playing with him and it was a privilege to learn from him as a person and as a rugby player," he said.