Jesse Kriel enhanced his claims for the Vodacom Bulls No 15 jersey with an impressive showing in their season opening warm-up match against the Cheetahs on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
A second-half brace from Piet van Zyl helped the Bulls to a comfortable 30-13 win in Polokwane, but it was Kriel's performance at fullback that should give Bulls fans cause for optimism.
The former Junior Boks star showed a couple of nice touches at fullback, especially on attack, and by all accounts looked comfortable in the Bulls' last line of defence. Kriel faces stiff competition for the No 15 jersey in the form of Ulrich Beyers and Jürgen Visser, but early signs suggest he has the inside line for a spot in the starting XV.
'It was good to get out on the field again,' Kriel told SARugbyMag.co.za. 'The first half was a bit of an arm-wrestle, but I think our fitness paid off in the second half. Things opened up a bit as the game wore on and we countered well from open play.
'Obviously there's still plenty of work to do before we're ready for Super Rugby, but it was a good starting point.'
The Bulls ran in three tries against the Cheetahs, all of which were rounded off by backline players. After finishing the 2014 Vodacom Super Rugby season with the least amount of tries scored, the Bulls have looked to sharpen their attacking skills ahead of the new season.
'I think you can expect a lot more attacking from us this season,' said Kriel. 'We've got some quality young players like Handré [Pollard] and Jan [Serfontein] who have already shown what they're capable of for the Boks.
'If we can keep everyone fit then I think we're in for a good season.'
Kriel has yet to feature for the Bulls in Super Rugby, but after breaking through to the first team during last season's Currie Cup, he is hoping to kick on in 2015.
'I think the main thing for me this season is to get some consistency in my game. There's some stiff competition for places, and if I get a chance then I'll be looking to build on last season's performances.'
Photo: Blue Bulls