Blue Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel is looking to build on his first Currie Cup start and make the No 15 jersey his own. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The Bulls were made to work hard for their first victory of the season against the Kings on Saturday in a relatively scrappy encounter that produced very few moments of quality.
One such player who showed glimpses of the ability that has made him one of South Africa's brightest young talents is Jesse Kriel. The 20-year-old was making his first Currie Cup start, and picked up his first try courtesy of some silky skills and direct running.
Having played centre for much of this year, Kriel has been restored to fullback, a position that he excelled in as a schoolboy. It's a role that he hopes to continue in moving forward.
'I think every player wants to start every weekend, and I'm no different,' Kriel told SARugbymag.co.za. 'We have some talented players here, and there is strong competition for places, so I'm just going to have to keep my head down and carry on working hard.'
The 30-25 victory helped to restore some confidence among the Bulls following heavy defeats to the Golden Lions and Western Province. Both teams will travel to Loftus in the coming weeks and despite a sparse crowd on Saturday, Kriel says the Bulls are relieved to be back playing in front of their fans again.
'It was a big boost to be back at Loftus, it gives the guys a massive lift.
'We're starting to play some better rugby, and we just need to get those final passes to stick. We felt we left a couple tries on the field against the Kings and we'll be looking to rectify that against Province this coming weekend.'
While a home win over the Kings would've been nothing less than expected at the beginning of the season, the relief around Loftus on Saturday was palpable.
'It was important for us to pick up that first win. We said to each other we needed to turn the season around starting with victory over the Kings,' said Kriel before brushing off suggestions of unrest in the camp.
'To call it a crisis was a bit premature. We know what we need to work on to turn things around. There's a positive vibe in the squad and a belief that we can turn the corner.'
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images