Bok utility back Jesse Kriel remains a wing and centre at heart

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Jesse Kriel. (Photo by Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images)
Jesse Kriel. (Photo by Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images)
  • Springbok utility back Jesse Kriel said he's happy at centre and at wing when playing for the national team.
  • He will be starting at right wing in Saturday's Test against Wales in Cardiff.
  • Kriel played most of his formative rugby at fullback, but played the bulk of his rugby for the Boks at centre.

Springbok utility back Jesse Kriel said made it clear that he belongs at either centre or wing ahead of Saturday's Test against Wales.

Kriel, who will be playing in his 49th Test when he runs out on the right wing at the Principality  Stadium in Cardiff, has played the bulk of his rugby on the wing for the Boks in the past three seasons.

Lukhanyo Am's excellence has had a lot to do with that, but it is worth remembering that Kriel's formative rugby was crafted as a fullback before the midfield conversion when he was at the Bulls.

When he debuted and scored against Australia in Brisbane in 2015, he was playing at outside centre, a role he's fulfilled 45 times.

It will be the fourth time Kriel will be featuring on the wing and has made peace with talent that's crowded the wing and fullback berths.

"I see myself playing in the centres and on the wing," Kriel said.

"We've got three world-class fullbacks in Willie le Roux, Aphelele Fassi and Damian Willemse. They're amazing talents.

"Willie's been doing an unbelievable job of teaching and coaching Aphelele and Damian. He's helped them wherever he has had to and he's done the same with me on the wing.

"I really enjoy my rugby at centre and at wing and that's where I see myself in the squad now.

"If I really had to cover fullback, I would be comfortable doing so, but we've got guys who are more than capable of doing the job there."

Kriel's far from unfazed from his lack of playing time on the wing, or even for the Springboks, in general, this season.

S'bu Nkosi's unfortunate passport mishap open the door for him, but even at that, Cheslin Kolbe had slammed it shut at right wing for all comers.

Kriel though credited Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick for keeping the outside backs sharp and ready for any challenge.

"Confidence is something that I build through training and not through previous experiences," Kriel said.

"Coach Sticks works hard with us outside backs to build confidence through the week on each day, so I'm pretty confident going into the game."




South Africa

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn

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