Kriel can be one of the greats – Meyer

Date published: July 8 2015

South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer has not held back when assessing debutant Jesse Kriel's potential ahead of Saturday's clash with the World XV at Newlands.

As first revealed by Planet Rugby on Tuesday, Meyer confirmed that the Bulls full-back will start at outside centre this weekend as he makes his first senior appearance in the position in which he starred at the U20 World Championship last year.

Many eyebrows have been raised at the prospect of experimenting with a 21-year-old just months ahead of the World Cup, but the Bok coach likened the youngster to Frans Steyn, who helped South Africa to the trophy aged just 20 in 2007.

"Jesse is an unbelievable all-round player and I have been following his progress since he was at school," said Meyer at Wednesday's team announcement.

"I’ve always thought his best position is outside centre and he has unbelievable acceleration and speed. I really like a centre who can take an outside gap, not a lot of players have the pace to do that.

"I reckon Jesse could go on to become one of the greatest outside centres that South Africa has ever produced. I really rate him highly. He can go on to become one of the greats and is probably one of the most talented players I have ever coached."

With Jaque Fourie being sent back to Japan to work on his fitness and Jean de Villiers set to feature for Western Province in the coming weeks to get some game time, Kriel and Damian de Allende are likely to enjoy an extended run as a midfield partnership with the clash against Australia in Brisbane kicking off their Rugby Championship campaign next week.

"It’s going to be a great experience to see those two players playing together, and Handre (Pollard) is a young player too, so we've got some exciting young players playing together," said Meyer.

"I think there is massive potential there, with no doubts about their ability to be an attacking force. All that I am a bit concerned about is that they haven't played together before so there may be some defensive issues.

"That will be the big question on Saturday, their big test. They need to show what they can do defensively. It isn't just down to this game though, because I will probably play them together against Australia as well."

Meyer expressed his disappointment that Kriel was not used at 13 by the Bulls in Super Rugby but his counter-attacking ability at full-back will give the Boks options at 15 in the future.

"I will probably play Jesse at full-back in the last part of the game [in Cape Town]," explained the Bok coach.

"I would like to stick with him as a centre for a few Tests, but he does bring great utility value, and is a bit like a young Frans Steyn in terms of what he can bring in several different positions.

"I think Pat Lambie can play international rugby at full-back, and there is a possibility that both he and Handre Pollard might one day end up playing in the same team, but for now I would like Pat to focus on fly-half. So I would prefer not to move Pat to full-back in Saturday’s game if I can help it."