‘Jesse can be SA’s best 13’

Heyneke Meyer says the electric Jesse Kriel will have a couple of games to prove his worth at No 13 in the buildup to the World Cup. JON CARDINELLI reports.

At the start of the season, Meyer said the Boks were thin in the positions of lock and centre. The situation has worsened over the past month, with Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts succumbing to serious injuries. Suddenly, the Boks have a problem at loose forward too.

With regards to the midfield crisis, SARugbymag.co.za understands that Frans Steyn (pectoral tear) is in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup. Jaque Fourie has been with the Boks in Cape Town this past week, but will return to Japan over the next few days to continue with his conditioning programme. Another squad member who is unavailable at present is Lions No 13 Lionel Mapoe (knee).

The good news for the Boks is that Jean de Villiers has made a complete recovery from his knee injury, and will play off the bench against the World XV this Saturday. And depending on your outlook, another positive is the selection of Jesse Kriel to start at No 13.

It’s likely Kriel will enjoy an extended run at No 13 over the next few weeks. Meyer confirmed De Villiers will return to Western Province next week, and continue his comeback in the Currie Cup friendly matches. The Springbok captain is only expected to return to the Test arena in early August when South Africa play two games against Argentina.

Meyer is clearly a fan of Kriel, and hopes the 21-year-old will make this chance count.

‘Jesse is an unbelievable talent. I was involved in the contracting of him at the Bulls, and had my eye on him when he was in the SA U20s. He came to train with us last year, and I’ve always liked him as an outside centre option. I considered him for the 2014 end-of-year tour, and had hoped he would get more of a chance at 13 in Super Rugby. He’s a special player in terms of his acceleration and eye for the outside gap. I’ve got a good feeling he can be one of the best outside centres South Africa has ever produced.

'We will probably stick with him there for the next couple of games. He has to prove himself, though. It will be tough considering that 10-12-13 combination [of Handré Pollard, Damian de Allende and Kriel] haven’t started together. They’ve only had a week to prepare. But if all goes well, maybe he will get another chance against Australia the following week.’

Meyer plans to replace Kriel with De Villiers in the second half of Saturday’s match. However, the Bok coach is keen to see what Kriel can offer at wing or fullback. The talented youngster could finish the game against the World XV in the back three.

Meyer confirmed that Kriel is the official cover for Willie le Roux at fullback in this match. Pat Lambie will only be considered as a flyhalf when he comes off the bench at Newlands.

Photo: Gallo Images

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