Kriel braced for titanic Welsh clash

Jesse Kriel (Gallo Images)
Jesse Kriel (Gallo Images)

Bagshot - South Africa centre Jesse Kriel is readying himself for another bruising encounter when the Springboks face Wales in a Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Twickenham on Saturday.

While a breakdown battle between Springbok great Schalk Burger and Wales captain Sam Warburton is sure to be fiercely contested, the midfield clash could prove almost as brutal, with the injury-hit Welsh boasting a power centre in Jamie Roberts.

"I'm expecting another hard game this week, it's going to be a challenge for us, a big challenge for them as well," Kriel said in Bagshot, where South Africa are using knocked-out hosts England's Pennyhill Park training base.

"They've obviously got some special players in their side. I think they've got some big strong runners, but I think we've got exactly the same and the players to match that as well," added Kriel.

Two-time world champions South Africa have been in knockout mode since they suffered a stunning 34-32 loss to Japan in their opening match before recovering to top Pool B.

"In the last couple of weeks we have been in the knockout stages, we know what it takes and we've had to grind it out," said Kriel.

Wales beat South Africa 12-6 in Cardiff last year and utility back Pat Lambie said: "Wales have fast line-speed, lots of numbers on their feet and put sides under pressure with their defence.

"They kick lots of high balls, lots of cross-field contestables, which they chase down with huge intensity."

However, Lambie added: "What happened in the past needs to stay in the past, Saturday is the only thing that counts now.

"Obviously we'll have a look at Cardiff last year and see what we can learn from those experiences.

"We want to make the country proud and win at all costs.

One more try for South Africa's Bryan Habana on Saturday will see him surpass New Zealand star Jonah Lomu's World Cup record of 15.

"I think Bryan is world-class, definitely one of the best finishers in world rugby as we've seen over the last few weeks," Kriel said.

"Knowing Bryan, I don't think he'll be too worried about the record, he'll just want the best for the team. He's a legend and in a class of his own.

Lambie added: "He's a great role model, a great example, not only for other players in the group but youngsters around the world."

It was a theme echoed by Springbok backs coach Richardo Loubscher, who said: "Bryan is a special player. you just have to look at his record. I am very fortunate, as a coach, to work with him.

"But we've got a lot of special players in our squad and, from my point of view, it's a team effort."

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