All about tries for the Lions
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,”
MAKING MAGIC: Jesse Kriel is enjoying the freedom of playing within the Bulls’ new structure.