Jesse Kriel believes the Springboks’ defensive blueprint is the ‘only way’ in Test rugby

Jared Wright
Springboks' Jesse Kriel reacts as South Africa win the Rugby World Cup final match between All Blacks and South Africa.

Springboks' Jesse Kriel reacts as South Africa win the Rugby World Cup final match between All Blacks and South Africa.

Rugby World Cup-winning centre Jesse Kriel believes that the Springboks have the perfect blueprint to be successful at Test level.

The midfielder was a standout performer for the Springboks as they successfully defended their World Cup title in France last year.

He played a pivotal role in the Jacques Nienaber-led defence, performing outstandingly in the outside centre channel.

Kriel believes that the Springboks’ defensive structure is the “only way” to defend in the modern game and has backed his ex-coach Felix Jones to get England up to scratch with the system.

Jones to get England up to speed

Jones joined Steve Borthwick’s coaching team as their defence coach after helping South Africa to two World Cup triumphs, and having worked under Nienaber for five years, he is implementing similar structures with the Red Rose.

“England have got some amazing additions to their coaching staff and I think they will make a massive difference. They also have such a good squad there,” Kriel said on the Boks Office podcast in reference to Jones joining Borthwick’s staff.

“He is one of the best that I have personally worked with.”

‘We all know the risk’ – Handre Pollard weighs in on Springboks’ ‘chaotic’ World Cup tactics

Nienaber’s defensive blueprint was paramount in the Springboks’ third World Cup title in 2019 and continued to be as the side went on to win the British and Irish Lions series and defend their title.

“The only way”

However, as Boks Office host and ex-Bok Hanyani Shimange pointed out, it does take time to bed in as seen with Jones at England.

“I believe it’s the only way to defend. Obviously, it is initially very hard because you are exposed, but it is like anything you do when you do it for a long time, you get better, you get better at making decisions,” Kriel added.

“These days, players have just become so good, their skill sets and all of that, if you are not putting guys under pressure, you are going to get ripped up.

“It’s not like back in the day, when you could be soft and push guys to touchlines. Back then, the skill sets weren’t maybe that good. These days, you need line speed, and you need to be putting guys under pressure constantly.

“Guys need to be thinking when they are attacking – ‘have I got time with someone in my face?’ – and force guys to make decisions because otherwise you just get ripped up.”

Kriel is currently on the mend after he opted to undergo surgery on his thumb but could return in time to feature for his Japanese Rugby League One side, the Canon Eagles, during the latter stages of the tournament.

He is set to be fit in time to feature for the Springboks in their Test match against Wales at Twickenham in June, as well as the home internationals against Ireland and Portugal.

READ MORE: Ex-England prop: What it feels like to be punched by Springboks enforcer Bakkies Botha