British & Irish Lions

Family connections will make Jesse Kriel's Lions tour experience even more special

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Jesse Kriel. (Photo by Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images)
Jesse Kriel. (Photo by Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images)
  • The British & Irish Lions tour will be particularly memorable for Jesse Kriel and his family.
  • Kriel's great grandfather, John Hodgson, played for the Lions on their 1930 tour to Australasia and the Bok midfielder has been left inspired by his exploits.
  • Kriel also says there's no more stigma attached to South Africans playing in Japan, a gig that's perceived to affect conditioning negatively.

Next month's British & Irish Lions tour will have a special, added flavour to Jesse Kriel and his family.

91 years ago, a utility forward named John Hodgson was one of 29 men to set sail for Australasia, where the composite team would take on Australia and New Zealand in a gruelling four-month, 29-match tour.

As it turns out, Hodgson is Kriel's great grandfather.

This connection gained broader attention late last year when the 27-year-old Springbok midfielder revealed that the Lions had sent Hodgson's original cap to his daughter, Diana, as part of an initiative to recognise the former players of world rugby's most famous touring team.

READ | Bok centre reveals his great-grandfather was a British Lion

The uncompromising forward, who played two Tests against the All Blacks on that trip and featured in 15 matches overall, also represented England and fronted up to the Springboks in 1932.

"It's special to be part of this history. My great grandfather played for the Lions, so this occasion is actually quite personal for me," Kriel said from Bloemfontein, where a select group of overseas-based national players are taking part in a conditioning camp.

"I'm definitely privileged to be involved."

In fact, Kriel and his twin, Lions centre Dan, only recently had a long chat about the prospect of both men carrying on the family's rugby-playing heritage.

Dan should be in line to play in the opening tour match for the men from Ellis Park.

"We sat around the other day to discuss this," said Kriel.

"It's the small, short stories that really inspires us. That Lions team were away for over four months and spend a lot of weeks on a boat just getting to the two countries.

"They had some good times on the ocean, but it's a long time away from families. You had to write letters. Nowadays you hop onto a plane and you're back with your loved ones the next day.

"It's those small stories that are quite cool and adds to the special nature of one's memories." 

Kriel is steeling himself for a similar type of physicality encountered by Hodgson all those decades ago as the Boks' Japan-based players get up to scratch conditioning wise.

But the World Cup-winner notes the perception that plying your trade in the East is no longer viewed as a so-called step-down to the intensity of other competitions such as PRO 14 or Super Rugby. 

"We’ve got a taste of the intensity we can expect against the Lions, so I'm very excited to be back," said Kriel.

"People question the  physicality of the Japan game, but there are a lot of foreign players there who bring that to the Japanese game.

"99% of people aren't aware of how many Pacific Islanders play there, they provide a lot of physicality. The tempo, as ever, is quite quick.

"No competition gets to Test intensity anyway. That’s what we're working towards."

Springbok squad

Forwards

Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Joseph Dweba, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Franco Mostert, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Kwagga Smith, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Jasper Wiese

Backs

Faf de Klerk, Herschel Jantjies, Sanele Nohamba, Cobus Reinach, Elton Jantjies, Handre Pollard, Morne Steyn, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Wandisile Simelane, Frans Steyn, Aphelele Fassi, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Yaw Penxe, Rosko Specman, Damian Willemse

 
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