Jesse Kriel did not get a chance to play after the first two games in the shortened Rugby Championship.
There was no place on the substitutes’ bench, while Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am were the center combination against the All Blacks.
Still, the 29-year-old fullback – who wore the number thirteen jersey in the majority of his training tests for South Africa – is burning to make his mark for the Springboks.
It is then a World Cup year.
“I really want to play. It would be a big mistake if a player was not persuaded to run for his country,” said Kriel during a Springbok media session in Pretoria.
The South Africans will play their last Rugby Championship match against Argentina at Ellis Park next Saturday and old habit will outweigh the team’s interests over that of an individual star.
The Springbok selectors will have to try to find the perfect balance.
On one side of the seesaw, a team must be chosen that can deal with the Argentines. If Australia – in some secret way – beats the All Blacks, there is still a possibility that the Bucks can walk away with the Rugby Championship laurels.
Momentum is also a very important preliminary ingredient in the run-up to an international knockout tournament.
On the other hand, there is the need to give players sufficient opportunities to prove themselves in a match situation.
After all, there is only so much space on the flight to France.
Still, Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus know what’s going on in Kriel. The former student of Maritzburg College has been part of the Bok set-up for eight years while scoring 12 tries in his 59 tests.
Kriel also believes that his time in Japan gave his game a definite boost.
In addition to his few games for the Red Hurricanes in 2015, he has been in action for the Canon Eagles since 2020.
“I love Japan and it’s very nice to see someone like Faf (de Klerk) in the same jersey. In a foreign country and culture, there are far fewer things that distract you on and off the field and you can concentrate more on your game.”
According to Kriel, the Japanese also enjoy keeping the ball in play; the margin is not simply something that is sought out.
“Your passing and defense must therefore remain sharp, while the high work ethic also has a positive influence on a player.”