In the latest SA Rugby magazine, CRAIG LEWIS and DYLAN JACK debate which South African player will make the biggest impact at their new team.
CRAIG LEWIS says Jaco Kriel
This may seem like a left-field selection because Kriel has yet to play since making a welcome return to the Lions. The dynamic flank opted to head abroad in 2018, but his stint with English club Gloucester never worked out the way it was expected, and it was confirmed in February that he had rejoined the Lions on a three-year deal.
Having undergone ankle surgery last December, Kriel was just days away from an expected comeback game for the Lions, but the Super Rugby season was then suspended.
Kriel recently turned 31, but his experience will be seen as a blessing at the Lions, where the squad has undergone considerable change – while several leading players have made an exit in recent years.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Kriel has 11 Test caps to his name, and if it weren’t for some injury misfortune, he would have surely racked up more.
Kriel last featured for the Boks in 2017, but if he can rediscover the rich vein of form he demonstrated during the Lions’ golden years, there is every chance the robust loose forward could knock on the international door once more.
Now fully fit, Kriel has said he is ‘ready to rumble’, and should receive plenty of game time as a senior member of a new-look Lions squad. And when a local competition is finally able to resume, his comeback will be one to watch.
DYLAN JACK says Warrick Gelant
Having joined the Stormers from the Bulls, Gelant is set to launch the next phase of his career, which could, as he puts it, see him become the ‘complete fullback’.
The 25-year-old has long been heralded as one of the country’s premier talents and touted as the successor to Springbok fullback Willie le Roux. Unfortunately, injuries hampered the early stages of Gelant’s career and he has since struggled to find the consistency that would allow him to take the next step in his rugby career.
As good a servant as Gelant was for the Bulls – having spent over five years in Pretoria – it has become increasingly clear that he needed a change of scenery and a new challenge to continue his growth on and off the field.
Simply put, the Stormers and Gelant are a very good match. John Dobson’s side has been on the lookout for a new first-class fullback after the departures of SP Marais to Japan and Dillyn Leyds to France.
Aside from his obvious attacking ability, Gelant has an underrated ability to kick with both feet, while he is a courageous defender who reads the game well.
If personal growth is what he is seeking, Gelant has chosen a fine team with which to pursue that. As a coach, Dobson is known for inspiring his players to expand their knowledge beyond what takes place on the field. As far as an impact goes, it’s difficult to look beyond Gelant and what he could do at the Stormers if he is able to rediscover his best form.
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images
*This article first appeared in the latest SA Rugby magazine, now on sale!