Athletes across all sports are constantly asked after they taste success when it sinks in, and George Kruis is no different – especially after a season of such magnitude for club and country.
Another Premiership title, a first European Cup, starting every game in England’s run to a first Grand Slam in thirteen years before making more history in Australia with that 3-0 series triumph. Laid out in print, it’s a highly impressive set of accolades. Even more so when you consider that it came at the end of the longest season of Kruis’ career.
That season began last June with England’s preparations for the Rugby World Cup, and the whitewash series against Australia was wrapped up on June 25 the following year. Many would be forgiven for tailing off in the final months. Kruis seemed to get better.
“I embraced the season. It was an uncharacteristically long year with big games at the end, but I thoroughly enjoyed it – that’s why you put so much effort in to have seasons like that. It’s good to reflect and take some equally deserved time off,” he said.
“[During the season] it can all blur into one, and afterwards you have a good sit down and think about what you’ve achieved. But then it dawns on you – that was last year. It’s time for a new challenge now. That’s refreshing, to reflect and then move on.”
Moving on of course means pre-season with Saracens, now targeting a third straight English crown, and those extra hill sprints and moments of exhaustion are a lot easier to take when the mood around the camp is buzzing.
Kruis was away for long enough to feel that urge to get back into action.
He explained: “We have a team that’s working, and clicking, and taking a lot of confidence from our reviews. When you’ve been away you start itching to get back and do something.
“The time we have off is pretty key, your body needs it, but obviously you’re not going to let yourself go that much. No one wants to be doing extra ‘fat club’ on the Saturday.”
It might be three months off but England’s attention has already turned to South Africa, with Kruis understandably focused on the quality of opposition he is set to face in the second row offered up by any two of Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit or Lood de Jager.
Like that current Springbok trio Kruis was inspired growing up by the longevity of Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield, the dominant South African lock pairing consistently hailed as the best in the world.
England’s own combination of Kruis and his Saracens team-mate Maro Itoje have a long way to go to match their level of success, even after a stellar season, but a win over the Springboks for the first time in a decade this November wouldn’t hurt.
Kruis will continue his analysis from afar during the Rugby Championship. It’s a fixture that already feels hugely important for the development of both sides, even with it being three months away.
“We watched a fair bit [of the Ireland series]. They’re a fairly new side coming together but they pose a huge threat,” Kruis acknowledged.
“Eddie had us all in the room in camp last weekend and asked us who had beaten South Africa, and not a single person apart from Eddie put his hand up. We haven’t won against them since 2006 and it’s the only game for us at the moment.
“The second rows very good players. I don’t think I’ve come across them before but they are a world class set of locks. They will have learnt a lot from their predecessors and there’s a strong pedigree.
“South Africa are a huge physical side and we have a massive task ahead of us. And this is our time.”
George Kruis was appearing alongside his England team mates at the launch of the new England Rugby shirt from Canterbury #CommittedToTheGame. Visit Canterbury.com.