Kriel living his Springbok dream

Date published: October 31 2014

Despite being disappointed after his team’s Currie Cup Final defeat, Jaco Kriel was smiling more than ever before the day after.

Despite being disappointed after his team’s Currie Cup Final defeat, Lions flanker Jaco Kriel was smiling more than ever before the day after.

Sitting on his couch at home, he received a call from an unknown number and on realising the voice on the other end was in fact Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, the 25-year-old flanker embraced his girlfriend and seconds later all thoughts of the 19-16 setback at Newlands were forgotten.

“Everything is like a dream for me at the moment,” Kriel said at the team’s Johannesburg base on Friday.

“It was an awesome experience and I was overwhelmed right there and then.

“My dad was still on his way back from Cape Town from the final, so I think I made his road a bit shorter.

“He was massively proud, and so I am, it is a massive privilege to be selected.”

As the top try scorer in the domestic showpiece – Kriel crossed ten times – he had a suspicion that he would get the call, but still nothing could prepare him for the best news of his career.

“Getting into the squad is a massive privilege for me, and it just shows hard work pays off and it is nice to see the selectors do take note if you play well.”

As part of the 36-man squad which boasts several Test stalwarts who also specialise in openside play, Kriel admitted that he has not set his sights on getting game-time just yet, and that he will rather use the opportunity to learn from the experienced men he will be spending time with over the next month.

“I know I’m not just going to walk into the team, that’s not the way it works,” stated Kriel.

“We have world class loose forwards so I’m really going to have to work hard for a spot and even if I don’t get game-time on this tour I know it is still a massive learning curve for me.”

Asked who the player was that inspired him to pursue a career in rugby, the Mpumalanga-bred forward said that he has always looked-up to one of the most loved and respected players to ever grace Ellis Park.

As for his journey towards being selected for the Springboks, the hard-hitting flanker, who has an incredible work-rate, credited his coaches and team-mates who he feels gave him the platform to be noticed.

“I’ve been a Lions supporter all my life and Wikus van Heerden was really my role model as a young rugby player.

“I’ve always looked-up to him. From the time I started playing, to the time I played with him, so that was just an awesome privilege to learn from him as a person as a rugby player.

“It starts with the team and the Lions play for each other this year. Coach Akkers (Johan Ackermann) always tells us that if we play for each other, play for the team and play for the Lord and fight for each other the individuals will start to stand out.

“I think I was one of the fortunate ones who stood out this year.”

by Michael Mentz