Kriel keeps statisticians busy

    2015-04-13 22:39

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel’s major strides in his maiden Super Rugby season are beginning to be reflected in the attack-related stats columns.

    The 21-year-old stands clear at the top of the category for metres earned after round nine, with 802 – helped by a busy day on the front foot as the Reds were thumped 43-22 at Loftus on Saturday.

    That has nudged him ahead of an illustrious customer now in second place on the charts, the Waratahs’ Wallaby trump-card and counterpart in the No 15 jersey Israel Folau (767m), who was mostly stopped in his tracks by a famous Stormers defensive effort in Sydney a few hours earlier.

    The Capetonians’ diminutive but lion-hearted Cheslin Kolbe has advanced to within the top 10 in the category (in seventh) with 528 metres; he streaked away from long range at the weekend to land the Stormers’ bonus-point try.

    But Kriel, the former Maritzburg College and Baby Bok star, has now also broken into the top 10 in another offence-geared department: for defenders beaten.

    He lies joint-10th with three others in the competition for having left 19 would-be stoppers in his wake.

    The category is headed by the Stormers’ booming midfield presence Damian de Allende on 33, five clear of joint second-placed Folau and the Blues’ Charles Piutau (28).

    Keep in mind that Kriel did not even start the season as the Bulls’ first pick at fullback; the berth was initially entrusted to the more experienced but inconsistent Jurgen Visser.

    Kriel’s all-round game is developing at a rate of knots – as well as bamboozling the Reds on attack, he made some solid and opportune tackles -- to the extent that experts believe he may pressure Willie le Roux, the Springbok No 15 incumbent, come the start of the Test season in mid-July.

    Le Roux has been below his best for the Cheetahs of late, although perhaps mentally jaded and suspected of carrying an ankle injury.

    He remains as mercurial and inventive by nature as they come, but occasionally takes silly, maverick options and this is something Kriel has largely avoided for the Bulls thus far.

    The presence of the muscular, elusive youngster at the back has arguably also started to bring out the best at Loftus in utility Bok back Francois Hougaard, currently enjoying a productive time nearby on the right wing.

    The slippery pair are a good foil for Bjorn Basson, the other member of the present back three, who remains a chaser extraordinaire of the high bomb.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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