Heyneke Meyer says the Springboks’ style doesn’t always suit Jesse Kriel at outside centre, but is delighted with the experienced campaigner’s performance against Wales.
Kriel, making his 46th start at No 13 in 62 Tests, scored two tries as the Boks demolished the Welsh Dragons 52-16 in their penultimate World Cup warm-up in Cardiff on Saturday.
He has played second fiddle to Lukhanyo Am, but Kriel, who can also play wing, will head to his third World Cup as the only recognised outside centre in Jacques Nienaber’s squad.
Nienaber pulled a surprise by naming Canan Moodie to start at 13 against the All Blacks on Friday, and dropping Kriel, who arguably needs as much time in the position as possible.
It was Meyer, who coached South Africa from 2012 to 2015, who first moved Kriel from fullback to centre and selected him for the national team, and speaking to Netwerk24, the former Bulls boss believes the Boks have missed a trick not giving the 29-year-old a crack at 15.
“I think the way the Boks play doesn’t always suit Jesse at 13 and I already thought he should maybe be given a chance with Willie [le Roux] at fullback,” Meyer said.
“Jesse has incredible attacking abilities, he is lightning fast and strong, and his defence is also impressive these days.
“I suspect people underestimate how good a player he is. He is the ideal player you want to take to a World Cup. He is experienced, versatile and a good team player.
“On Saturday, we also saw how big his desire is to bring his side into the starting team. I’m very happy for Jesse, because he deserves it.”
He added: “We didn’t have many outside centres at that stage after Jaque Fourie stopped playing [for the Boks].
“Jesse played fullback for the Bulls, but I knew he could become an excellent outside centre. He reminded me a lot of ex-Wallaby Stirling Mortlock.
“In the World Cup semi-final in 2015 against the All Blacks, Jesse and Damian played barely 20 Tests together and they came up against Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu that day and did brilliantly.
“I have always held Jesse in high esteem.”
Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP