Kriel: Lions series has special significance to me

Springbok centre Jesse Kriel will follow his great-grandfather’s footsteps by participating in one of the most significant rugby traditions in the game’s history.

Kriel’s great-grandfather John Hodgson – a loose forward who played his English club rugby for Northumbrian side Northern – featured in the British & Irish Lions’ 6-3 victory over New Zealand in Dunedin and the 15-10 loss to the All Blacks in Auckland in 1930.

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The Gosforth-born flank made 15 appearances for the British & Irish Lions, scoring nine points. He also represented England between 1932 and 1936, earning seven caps, including being part of the England team who played against the 1932 Springboks in London on 2 January 1932.

‘My great-grandfather played for the Lions, so this is quite a personal one for me and it is special to be involved,’ said Kriel.

‘Going back to 2009, I was still at school then and I obviously have some great memories of that Jaque Fourie try and Morne Steyn kicking that penalty over [in the second Test to clinch the series].

‘So it is very special, and as Jacques [Nienaber, Springbok coach)]mentioned, this opportunity probably comes around once in a player’s career, so I think everyone is going to try to make the most of the chance.’

Kriel said he and his twin brother, Dan, reminisced about his great-grandfather’s tour experiences recently.

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‘They went to New Zealand on their tour and they were on a boat for a couple of months to get there and had to write letters to the family.

‘These days we get on a plane and we are back in South Africa the next day. So, those stories are quite cool and some of the memories that I kind of enjoyed looking back at. It means a lot to me and my family and it will be really special.’

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Kriel was delighted to be back in the Springbok squad for the first time since the World Cup triumph in 2019, when he was ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring injury, and said they immediately got down to business on the field.

‘I certainly got a taste of the intensity this week,’ he said.

‘It’s been good to be back in set-up and all the guys are very excited to be back. We will obviously work hard on the intensity in the next few weeks and hopefully get as close as possible to Test-match level.’

Photo: Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack