Jaguares humbling was 'good' for the Lions
SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: Springbok Jaco Kriel believes the ‘hurt’ of the humiliating loss to the Jaguares will help the Lions grow.
Kriel, fronting up to the media for the first time since announcing his return to South Africa from a stint at Gloucester, said plenty of good can come from the loss in Buenos Aires.
Confirmation of his return ‘home’ follows the recent signings of veteran Springboks Jannie du Plessis and Willem Alberts – a timely boost after the team’s embarrassing 8-38 loss to the Jaguares.
Kriel came through the Lions system and helped them bounce back from the ignominy of ‘being axed from Super Rugby in 2013 – to reach three consecutive finals, in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
“It is good for the team to experience that, especially the youngsters,” Kriel said of the mortifying performance in the season-opener.
“It is not good for the campaign, because you don’t want to start with a loss.
“However, we don’t have a good track record in Buenos Aires – it is never an easy place to visit.”
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He added that the young Lions players are “really keen” to rectify it against the Reds at Ellis Park this coming Saturday.
There has been a massive turnover of player resources since his departure.
“There are a lot of new guys in the mix, but I do know most of them – having worked with them when they were in the junior ranks here at the union.”
He said the DNA of the Lions hasn’t changed.
“Everyone still works hard, never gives up and makes sure the effort can never be faulted.”
Kriel won’t feature in Lions the team before March or April, as he is currently recovering from an ankle injury he suffered while playing for Gloucester in the European Cup.
Kriel, 30, has 11 Test caps for the Boks – to go with his more than 100 outings for the Lions (Super Rugby and Currie Cup).
He will bring real leadership qualities to the Lions squad, whom he captained before his departure.
He joined former Lions coach Johan Ackermann at Gloucester in 2018 and has featured in 20 matches for the Premiership club.
This season he made five appearances in the Premiership and European Cup – the last of those against Montpellier on November 24.
He suffered an ankle injury in that game.
“I had ankle surgery in December,” he said, adding that he is hoping for a speedy recovery.
“It is looking good for now. My strength is good and I’ve been training on the anti-gravity treadmill.
“I will do proper running next week. It is a fragile injury because of the way the operation was done. I have to be careful about how hard I push and when to do what.”
With a litany of injuries in recent years, he is justified in being cautious.
“It’s really a tough situation. It feels like I’m back to that first big shoulder op of mine [in mid-2017] and the injuries just never stopped.
“I believe I had the wrong mindset at times. You can’t be scared to play rugby. You have to give it your all. And it’s rugby, it happens and it’s part of the game.”