Kriel to start at 13 for Boks

Date published: July 7 2015

Bulls full-back Jesse Kriel is set to be a surprise inclusion at outside centre in the Springbok starting XV for Saturday's clash with the World XV.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will officially announced his team for the game at Newlands on Wednesday but Planet Rugby can reveal that Kriel will start at 13, while captain Jean de Villiers will make his return from a serious knee injury via the bench.

Speculation has been rife over who will fill the 13 jersey for the Boks at the World Cup following Meyer's decision to recall veteran Jaque Fourie.

The 32-year-old World Cup winner has arrived from Japan out of shape and is currently undergoing a special conditioning programme, prompting Meyer to experiment with Kriel, who starred for South Africa in the 13 jersey during last year's Under-20 World Championship in New Zealand.

Kriel was one of the standout South African players during a disappointing Super Rugby campaign, with counter-attacking from full-back one of the few positive points to be take out of the Bulls' season.

The 21-year-old, who shares a house with Bulls team-mate and Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard, has never had significant game time in midfield at senior level.

Kriel has impressed at training in the national camp and Meyer has hinted in the past that the youngster may well throw a cat amongst the pigeons.

"Jesse Kriel has trained with us before but he's really put his hand up this season," Meyer said after a preparation camp last month.

"I don't believe in pecking orders and I believe the best 31 must go to the World Cup."

Saturday's game serves as a warm-up for the Rugby Championship and will be vital part of the build up to the World Cup. 

An impressive performance from Kriel could boost his chances of travelling to England as both a back-up to Willie le Roux at full-back and an option at 13. 

"I do enjoy full-back and I'd say it's my preferred position I enjoy the space one gets. But I also enjoy my time at centre," Kriel told reporters in June.

"I love making a contribution on attack and having more time with ball in hand. I'll play wherever the team needs me to play."

In 2007, a 20-year-old Frans Steyn played a key role in South Africa's victorious World Cup campaign as he filled in for the injured De Villiers. Will Kriel follow in his footsteps?