Jesse Kriel: World Cup-winning Springboks far from being at the end of an era

Centre Jesse Kriel screams in delight after the Springboks beat the All Blacks in the World Cup final. Photo: Reuters

Centre Jesse Kriel screams in delight after the Springboks beat the All Blacks in the World Cup final. Photo: Reuters

Published Mar 22, 2024


On the bus back from the Stade de France in Paris after winning the World Cup final, the Springboks were already talking about a three-peat four years later.

Jesse Kriel, the Springbok outside centre in the 12-11 defeat of the All Blacks, said as much this week at an early screening of the first episode of the Chasing the Sun 2 documentary that will be aired on Sunday evening at 8pm on M-Net.

“The group of players that defended the World Cup do not regard themselves as being at the end of an era – far from it,” Kriel said at the SuperSport studios in Randburg.

“On the bus after the final, with the cup amongst us, we were already talking about winning it for a third time. This is a group obsessed with success and ever hungry to make our country proud.”

Kriel said that the older players in the squad do not feel under pressure because of their age.

“Deon Fourie is our inspiration,” said Kriel, laughing.

“But seriously, Rassie (Erasmus) has told us often enough that it is performance that gets you selected – your age has nothing to do with it. Performance is everything.

“The way Deon gets picked at age 37 is evidence of that.”

Kriel said that for the Bok players, the 2023 win shades the 2019 win in terms of satisfaction because they were under more pressure at the second tournament.

“Both World Cups were incredibly special in their way,” he said. “I guess 2023 meant more to us because South Africa expected us to defend the title whereas in 2019 there was little expectation. This last time, people believed we would bring the cup back.

“People would see us in the street and say, ‘We can’t wait for you to bring the cup home with you’.”

Kriel had an exceptional World Cup. He became the starting No 13 following the injury sustained by Lukhanyo Am against Argentina just six weeks before the team went to France.

Kriel took the chance so sweetly that the jersey became his own, even when Am joined the squad in France after an injury to Makazole Mapimpi.

He says he and the Sharks midfielder have no enmity between them.

“Lukhanyo and I share a special relationship: he is a good friend of mine on and off the field,” Kriel said.

“In 2019 (when Kriel got injured), I played a role in getting him as best prepared as possible, and he did the same for me at this last World Cup.

“The only thing that matters is that in 2019 and 2023, we both went up on the stage to get World Cup gold medals.

“At the end of the day, what counts is that we were on the same stage when the Webb Ellis Cup was lifted.

“We are both extreme competitors, and we truly want the best for each other. It is a special situation to be in. You push each other for the goal of the team winning.

“He is a top-quality human being ... I learn from him every day, and I am privileged to have him as a teammate.”

Next up for the Bok is a friendly against Wales on June 22 in London, before the much-anticipated visit by Six Nations champions Ireland, with Tests in Pretoria (July 6) and Durban (July 13).

“For some time, Ireland have consistently been one of the best teams in the world and they will be tough to beat,” Kriel said.

“But we have always been a team that doesn’t worry about what is being said in the media, and instead concentrate on being the best we can be.

“We know what is required to give us the best chance of success, and we will focus on the little things that make the big things happen. We know what we have to do to beat Ireland.”

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