How Jesse will 'wing it' against the Dragons
Jesse Kriel, once a staple in the Springbok midfield, is adamant there is no need for major adjustments to slot in on the wing for South Africa against Wales on Saturday.
Kriel, one of several backline changes for the Boks’ opening match of their year-end campaign, starts at right wing in place of Sibusiso Nkosi, who is yet to travel to the United Kingdom as he awaits the necessary paperwork.
Only twice before has he played on the wing – starting in the No.14 jersey against Argentina in Durban in August 2015 and he also featured on the right wing against New Zealand in the famous win in Wellington in September 2018.
On eight occasions he played off the bench and the rest of his Tests were all as an outside centre.
Kriel. 27, said as outside backs their preparations don’t change much.
“Most of the backs in our team are able to play various positions,” he told a virtual media briefing ahead of Saturday’s showdown, adding: “We have a great focus on our aerial skills.”
Kriel, capped 48 times for his country, spoke of the influence of the assistant coaches in sharpening up their skills.
“Mzwandile Stick has been doing a great job with all of us outside backs right throughout our campaign – since way before the World Cup – [working ] on our aerial skills and things like that.
“It’s something that we work hard at every single day.”
He said he was “pretty comfortable” in whatever position he plays in.
“Obviously, I enjoy my rugby at centre, but I love it just as much playing on the wing.
“I just want to do what’s best for the team and to be able to deliver – wherever it is – and just be on the field.
“I am just happy for the opportunity on Saturday.”
He also spoke of the importance of “communication”, especially with fellow defensive organisers like Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am.
“Being able to control who folds, who stays and who goes is a big part of our system.
“Being vocal and making the big defensive reads we want to make as a team ties into the role that I have to play this weekend.”
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Damian Willemse and Herschel Jantjies have also earned rare starts at fullback and scrumhalf, respectively, and Kriel is keen to play alongside these two exciting youngsters.
“I have confidence in every single player in this team,” he said, adding: “We have got an unbelievable squad.
“The guys work really hard and are all very capable.
“Damian Willemse is a special player. We all know what he can do.
“Herschel Jantjies as well, a really, really special player.
“They have got unbelievable skill sets.
“They are also raring at the bit to get out there on Saturday and show what they can do, how talented they are and what they can contribute to the Springboks.
“It’s really exciting. It’s nice for guys to get a start.
“A lot of guys have obviously been coming off the bench, so it’s nice for guys to get a different role this weekend and show how they can contribute to the team.”