Springbok and Lions loose forward Jaco Kriel talks about life during lockdown, South Africa’s new prospective provincial tournament, and how he felt watching Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU.
Jaco Kriel has been out of action since returning to South Africa in the middle of last year after undergoing foot surgery.
In an interview published on the Lions’ website, he opens up about his injury struggles, what it means to be back at Ellis Park and how he has occupied his time during the statement of lockdown.
With rugby in South Africa set to resume soon, what are your personal expectations going into a new format of local rugby?
‘As we head into our new adventure I believe everyone is so excited to get back on the field no matter what the format is going to be which is great. It seems like the love for the game grew much stronger in this time.’
How have you experienced training since getting back to the stadium?
‘It’s been really nice to be back. It’s a real mental challenge to go train by yourself everyday so even if we can’t mingle back at the stadium, it is nice to know that your brothers are there also working really hard. The vibe has been amazing.’
What it is like to train (in the gym and on the field) with a mask on?
‘I know most of the supporters only enjoy the Saturdays come game time but we’ve always worked really hard in the week and it was something to get used to doing it all with a mask on. I know people usually ask how do we breathe which is challenging but another thing that took some getting used to was communicating with the mask on, on and off the field.’
Is there a rivalry between the Lions’ loose forwards that are all vying for a spot when rugby resumes?
‘I believe there will always be a close relationship within a loose forward group but within that group it gets so competitive. I believe healthy competition is always good.’
What has been the most difficult for you during the last few months of lockdown and what did you miss the most?
‘The most difficult part for me was not knowing when we were going to resume with rugby again. It’s one thing working hard with some goals in mind but working hard not knowing where the finish line is, is challenging. I missed the group environment, the banter between the boys, the good laughs and the hard work alongside each other the most.’
Did you follow the rugby in Australia and New Zealand and what were your thoughts on it?
‘I did follow the New Zealand and Aussie competitions a bit and I was more jealous than anything else but watching some of it just made me realise how tough it’s going to be on the body playing local SA derby’s for a couple of weeks.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images