Pretoria - Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel says he’ll be making the most of his opportunities given to him this season.
Kriel, just 21, is quickly becoming a crowd favourite in Pretoria as he continues his rugby rise through the Bulls ranks.
While the team experienced a disappointing start to the Super Ruby campaign, suffering back-to-back defeats against the Stormers and Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld, they managed a 43-35 win over the Sharks in front of their home crowd last weekend.
Kriel has been one of the Bulls’ consistent performers during the Super Rugby campaign, and was delighted his team-mates could pull off a good victory against last year’s South African conference winners.
“The experience last week was great. To be part of the team and to see the motivation among the players going into the match was inspiring. I’m glad and thankful that the coaches back me and my ability,” Kriel told MyPlayers.co.za.
“We weren’t happy with the way we started the Super Rugby campaign, but we just needed to follow through with our opportunities and momentum, which we did against the Sharks. The match against the Hurricanes was a close contest, and it could’ve gone either way, we just failed to turn our pressure into points.
“With this win under our belts, we’re going into the next match against the Cheetahs with confidence. The players have been very positive at training. It’s going to be a tough challenge in Bloemfontein, especially at the gain line.”
While Kriel has starred at fullback, he has featured at centre during his career at the Bulls and his time with the Junior Springboks last year.
So what is his preferred position?
“I do enjoy fullback and I’d say it’s my preferred position. I enjoy the space one gets,” said Kriel. “But I also enjoy my time at centre. I love making a contribution on attack and having more time with ball in hand. I’ll play wherever the team needs me to play.”
Kriel, a Maritzburg College old boy, added that he’s enjoying life in Pretoria. He spends most of his time with house-mates, Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard and twin brother Dan Kriel.
“Many people think Pretoria is just a small town, but there’s quite a lot of things one can do this side of the world. My brother and I have managed to settle in quite nicely after the past few years and we’re enjoying it over here,” said Kriel. “I spend most of my time with Handre and Dan. We’re very close.
“I’m very proud of Handre and his achievements for the Bulls and Springboks. We talk about the game a lot and how rugby is evolving. I hope to follow Handre’s lead and be one of the next group of young players making a big impact in South African rugby. My main goals is giving my best to the Bulls and delivering consistent performances, and I believe the reward will eventually follow.”
Kriel will be at fullback for the Bulls when they tackle the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday (17:05 kick-off).
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jean Cook, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie
Substitutes: 16 Stephan Coetzee. 17 BG Uys, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Tienie Burger, 20 Steven Sykes, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Johann Sadie
15. Jesse Kriel, 14. Bjorn Basson, 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 12. Jan Serfontein, 11. Francois Hougaard, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Rudy Paige, 8. Pierre Spies (captain), 7. Lappies Labuschagne, 6. Deon Stegmann, 5. Victor Matfield, 4. Jacques du Plessis, 3. Trevor Nyakane, 2. Adriaan Strauss, 1. Morne Mellett
Substitutes: 16. Callie Visagie, 17. Dean Greyling, 18. Marcel van der Merwe, 19. Grant Hattingh, 20. Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22. Piet van Zyl, 23. Jurgen Visser
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