Vodacom Bulls youngster David Kriel says he cannot wait to show his worth at fullback after the team lost veteran Gio Aplon to a long-term injury.
The Bulls on Monday confirmed that Aplon will miss the entire rest of the domestic season after tearing a knee ligament during their loss to the Cheetahs over the past weekend.
Aplon will undergo surgery on Wednesday and his rehabilitation period is expected to take between six to nine months, causing him to miss both Super Rugby Unlocked and the following Currie Cup tournament.
The 38-year-old Springbok is likely to be replaced at fullback by David Kriel, the 21-year-old who joined the Bulls from Western Province during the lockdown.
Kriel, whose younger brother Richard is currently playing for the Bulls U21 side, has been exclusively selected on the wing to date, but looked comfortable when he took Aplon’s place at fullback in Bloemfontein.
The Bulls next host the Sharks in Pretoria and the Durban side are likely to ironically field Manie Libbok at fullback. Libbok started his senior career at the Bulls but left during the lockdown as he had become frustrated due to a lack of starting opportunities.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Kriel said that while the Bulls will miss Aplon’s wealth of experience, he is keen to show that he has the ability to be the starting fullback.
‘Things have started happening quicker than I thought they would, but you have to always be ready for your opportunity and I like to think I was,’ Kriel said. ‘Every day at Loftus is like a dream. I was a young kid when Morne Steyn won the series here against the British Lions, Gio Aplon was also a Springbok when I was growing up, so it’s an indescribable feeling to play with these guys.
‘I feel very sorry for Gio and I wish him a speedy recovery, we will miss his experience. To have the faith of the senior men around here has really helped my learning curve, and every day it grows a bit more.
‘I’m very excited to maybe be the first-choice fullback now, at 21 years old, not many have played in the No 15 jersey for the Bulls. I can’t wait to show off my worth, my first-choice position is fullback and having a big kicking boot helps there.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images