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Boks: Jesse may trouble ‘loosie’

2015-10-03 11:31
Jesse Kriel (Gallo Images)
Newcastle – If the Springboks have done their homework on Scotland’s hotly-debated selection for the crunch World Cup meeting at St James’ Park here later on Saturday, they will realise that Jesse Kriel has a promising opportunity to punch some holes at outside centre.

Despite their fairly irate protests to the contrary, the Scots appear to have taken the cautious route of resting certain personnel for their final Pool B encounter against Samoa next weekend, which was always billed as one that could determine which of those two gets into the knockout phase - alongside the pre-tournament assumption that the Boks would romp through in first place, which may yet happen.

Even if they were to lose to Fourie du Preez’s outfit, victory over the Pacific Islanders will see Scotland advance, so they have clearly placed some eggs delicately in that basket and may now tackle the Boks with a feeling of “hope” slightly surpassing that of any major expectation.

One of the alterations the Scots have made to their team for the Boks is the sidelining of regular outside centre Mark Bennett, meaning that converted loose forward Richie Vernon occupies the No 13 jersey.

That may turn out to be music to the ears of the Boks’ exciting 21-year-old immediately opposite him, Kriel.

The bright, versatile star from the Bulls may only boast six Test caps thus far, but at least as far as the centre position is concerned he will enter this match knowing that his direct rival (22 appearances in total) is playing just his third game in midfield at this level.

Vernon, who has previously done duty either at No 8 or flank for Scotland, only has prior appearances at No 13 against Ireland and Italy in August.

There are some reservations about his ability to thrive there, with The Scotsman newspaper ( saying: “(He) is a pretty solid defender but doesn’t have the eye for a gap that Bennett does, nor the acceleration to exploit it.

“He is also hopelessly green, with just two Test starts to his name in his new midfield position ... the most difficult channel on the field to defend.”

Of course the 100 kg-plus Vernon will be expected to bring rugged physicality to the berth, although the stocky, explosive Kriel at 96kg is a potential stick of dynamite himself and hardly held back for body-on-the-line commitment when introduced as a second-half substitute against Samoa last weekend, after both Damian de Allende – his partner this time – and luckless captain Jean de Villiers left the park injured.

He ought to have a strong edge over Vernon for stepping skills and pace off the mark if given sufficient opportunities to attack at St James’ Park ...   

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing. Rob is attending the pool phase of RWC 2015 to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.

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