All about tries for the Lions

The Mercury - - SPORT - Jac­ques van der Westhuyzen Vata Ngob­eni

THE try-hun­gry Lions have made their in­ten­tions known ahead of fac­ing the Brumbies in a Su­per Rugby match at El­lis Park to­mor­row: they want to score more tries.

Swys de Bruin’s men lead the way in the com­pe­ti­tion for num­ber of tries scored – 58, 17 more than the next best SA team (the Bulls) – but they’re still not sat­is­fied. They want more, and De Bruin has picked a team to get that job done.

Fol­low­ing their dis­ap­point­ing tour of Australasia where they only won their first game – against the Waratahs, 29-0, in Sydney – and lost the last three, against the Reds, Hur­ri­canes and High­landers, De Bruin has opted to bring new en­ergy to the team. He’s picked fliers Syl­vian Mahuza and Ma­dosh Tambwe on the wings, and in­side them, at 13, rookie Aphiwe Dyan­tyi will get a run for the first time in mid­field. Next to him will be the at­tack-minded pow­er­house Ro­han Janse van Rens­burg.

“Lionel Mapoe has a bit of a groin in­jury and Harold Vorster has the flu ... so we’re go­ing with these guys this week. We want to have a go and get some more tries in the bag,” said De Bruin.

“We scored a lot of tries on tour, even though we didn’t win as much as we would have liked, but we want to keep scor­ing tries. I’m ex­cited about Aphiwe at 13 ... it’s a po­si­tion he loves and has played in be­fore. He’s a mas­sive tal­ent and our plan will be to get the ball to him as of­ten as pos­si­ble on Satur­day,” added the Lions boss who up to now has only used Dyan­tyi on the wing.

Tambwe and Mahuza also get starts again af­ter not get­ting too many op­por­tu­ni­ties in Australasia and they’ve shown this year they’re fa­mil­iar with the way to the try­line.

Also back in the mix this week is No 8 Hacji­vah Day­i­mani, while on the bench scrumhalf Ross Cronje is back to add depth to the scrumhalf role.

In other news, fly­half El­ton Jan­tjies will make his 100th Su­per Rugby ap­pear­ance on Satur­day, af­ter mak­ing his de­but in 2011.

Mean­while, reg­u­lar cap­tain and No 8 War­ren White­ley is yet to be con­sid­ered for ac­tion af­ter ag­gra­vat­ing a knee in­jury on the eve of the team’s de­par­ture to Australasia five weeks ago. Ac­cord­ing to De Bruin, White­ley is “around the cor­ner” from play­ing again. “We hope it’s soon,” said De Bruin.

IT WAS not that long ago that Springbok and Bulls cen­tre Jesse Kriel re­lied purely on tal­ent and in­stinct.

That was clear in his maiden Su­per Rugby sea­son for the Bulls three years ago and it was fur­ther high­lighted in his Test de­but against Aus­tralia where Kriel scored an in­di­vid­ual try.

Kriel has since strug­gled to tap into that tal­ent and in­stinct, of­ten hin­dered by be­ing shifted be­tween full­back and cen­tre, and even wing, and be­ing left to his own de­vices in vary­ing game-plans at the Bulls and Spring­boks.

TBhis year Kriel is a dif­fer­ent player and while that tal­ent and in­stinct is still part of his game, he has be­come a bet­ter player than the kid fresh out of Mar­itzburg Col­lege in 2015.

Kriel has al­ready scored four tries this sea­son but his big­gest con­tri­bu­tion has been his self­less­ness in mak­ing sure that his team­mates on his out­side, and at times his in­side, are bet­ter placed to score tries.

“When I go and look at a game on a Sun­day, I look more at un­seen efforts and how I worked off the ball. Those are more im­por­tant to me than line­breaks and scor­ing. That is an­other thing that Mitch has been re­ally good – un­seen efforts and the work you do off the ball – those dummy lines you run that open space for other play­ers, serv­ing other play­ers early and serv­ing, get­ting the ball into War­rick’s (Ge­lant) hands early. That has been a big fo­cus, get­ting the ball into his hands early. Al­low­ing him to make magic, get­ting the ball into the wings’ hands and get­ting them to work their magic. That is the kind of sat­is­fac­tion I have been get­ting, serv­ing oth­ers early and get­ting other guys, link­ing them and get­ting into space,” said Kriel.

Kriel’s re­birth has largely been due to his will­ing­ness to learn and find en­joy­ment in the game, but part of it has been the ar­rival of for­mer All Blacks coach John Mitchell.

“I think he (Mitchell) has had a big hand in that. I think he has changed the whole mind­set and I don’t think it was a case that the guys didn’t have a skillset here. It was more a mind­set, and if you want to call it – free­dom that he has given the guys. Mitch’s whole view on things is that struc­ture gives you free­dom and we’ve got struc­tures in places that are re­ally giv­ing the play­ers free­dom and giv­ing us much more time and space on the ball. We’re serv­ing the sys­tem and serv­ing each other. That is where we are find­ing en­joy­ment on the field,” Kriel said.

While Kriel ad­mits that his form slumped, he makes a com­pelling ar­gu­ment of how play­ing to a par­tic­u­lar struc­ture and ful­fill­ing cer­tain roles came in the way of play­ers’ tal­ents.

“At that time we were just ful­fill­ing roles and do­ing our jobs. Now we have dif­fer­ent roles and dif­fer­ent jobs to fill and we are do­ing that. The game evolves and you are ex­pected to do dif­fer­ent things so at the mo­ment we are do­ing the things and ful­fill­ing the roles we are ex­pected to. So I sup­pose, ja, that is the kinda feel­ing be­hind it. If you look at Damian (de Al­lende) now, you would say he is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent type of player, but he is just do­ing the job and do­ing an amaz­ing job. He is hav­ing a great sea­son. Ob­vi­ously in rugby it is nice to see how Mitch has a dif­fer­ent out­look on it. The great thing is that we as play­ers are leav­ing Lof­tus ev­ery day hav­ing been stim­u­lated and hav­ing learnt a lot. That is what you want as a player. It isn’t al­ways about big con­tracts, but it’s about get­ting bet­ter and leav­ing here ev­ery day sat­is­fied. I can hon­estly say we are leav­ing sat­is­fied ev­ery day,” says Kriel.

The 24-year-old Kriel’s form will be com­fort­ing for Springbok coach Rassie Eras­mus with Sharks cen­tre Lukhanyo Am and Lions cen­tre Lionel Mapoe also show­ing good form ahead of the June se­ries against Eng­land.

As much as Kriel keeps an eye on his op­po­site num­ber, he is more fo­cussed on im­prov­ing him­self for his fran­chise team and na­tional side if he is the man to be at out­side cen­tre.

“Ob­vi­ously when I an­a­lyse other teams I see other guys play­ing well and we ob­vi­ously see stats when you an­a­lyse other teams. But I’ve purely been fo­cused on what I have to do here and what Mitch ex­pects of me as a 13. Ob­vi­ously the Boks, Rassie has been re­ally hands on and has told us what he ex­pects from us. I think it has just been work­ing a lot on my game as an in­di­vid­ual and where I need to work to con­trib­ute to the team. That has just been my drive and where I have put all my en­ergy – in bet­ter­ing my skillset and bet­ter­ing my­self as a player so I can con­trib­ute as a player and for the team on Satur­day,” Kriel added. On Satur­day in Buenos Aires against the Jaguares, Kriel will have to again serve the team ahead of his own am­bi­tions if the Bulls are to break their win­less run in South Amer­ica.

Even with­out cen­tre part­ner and cap­tain Burger Oden­daal in the team and in­juries to Lood de Jager and Lizo Gqoboka, Kriel be­lieves the move by Springbok Han­dre Pol­lard to in­side cen­tre and the added lead­er­ship of hooker Adri­aan Strauss will be more than suf­fi­cient to give the Bulls a chance to top­ple the Jaguares from sec­ond spot in the South African con­fer­ence.

“As you’ve seen with Eng­land and other suc­cess­ful teams in the world, their 10s slot quite eas­ily into cen­tre. I think Han­dre is a big phys­i­cal boy and he can han­dle the con­tact there in the mid­field. He’s good on defence and on at­tack you all know what he is ca­pa­ble of. It is ex­cit­ing, who­ever slots into that role will be very good. Ob­vi­ously his lead­er­ship will be missed but then you have guys like Adri­aan who can step up and take those roles,”

Kriel said.

MAK­ING MAGIC: Jesse Kriel is en­joy­ing the free­dom of play­ing within the Bulls’ new struc­ture.

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