• ‘Kriel’s Bok future at 13’

    Vodacom Bulls coach Nollis Marais says Jesse Kriel will add value as an option at outside centre and fullback next season, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    Kriel has enjoyed a meteoric rise this year, playing a star role at fullback for the Bulls during the 2015 Super Rugby competition, which deservedly saw the youngster earn inclusion in the Springbok squad.

    However, outgoing Bok coach Heyneke Meyer identified Kriel as a future Bok great at outside centre and immediately selected the 21-year-old in that position, where he would go on to start nine of his 11 Tests this year.

    The Bulls’ midfield is well-stocked for next year, with the likes of JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Burger Odendaal and Kriel among their squad, while Junior Springbok star Warrick Gelant emerged as a thrilling prospect at fullback during this season’s Currie Cup.

    ‘I’ve always thought Jesse would make a great outside centre, and I still think his Bok future is at 13, but he also played really well at fullback in Super Rugby this year, so he can obviously play in either position,’ Marais told SARugbymag.co.za. ‘I really rate Warrick, and it will be good to see what he can do next year, so we’ve good some exciting options at fullback and in the midfield.’

    Along with the likes of Grant Hattingh, Handré Pollard, JJ Engelbrecht and Bjorn Basson, Kriel is currently completing a short-term stint in Japan before returning to the Bulls.

    Marais said they were looking forward to welcoming those key players back before the start of Super Rugby, with the Bulls kicking off their campaign against the Stormers on 27 February.

    ‘For them to go to Japan, it’s the lesser of two evils. If they had to take up contracts in Europe, for example, we wouldn’t have them available for Super Rugby. It’s obviously not ideal to have them only returning early next year, but hopefully there won’t be any injuries, and we’ll get them back fit and raring to go.’

    Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images

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    Craig Lewis