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.
Jesse Kriel (Gallo Images)
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
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
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
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 (www.scotsman.com) 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
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 ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing. Rob is attending the pool phase of
RWC 2015 to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.