CAPE TOWN - DAVID Kriel is well over 1.9 metres and weighs nearly 100kg, but you wouldn’t think it if you see him at fullback for the Bulls.
That is because the 22-year-old is an all-action character who doesn’t just stay at the back to field high kicks.
Mind you, he does that very well – as well as sliding into the backline out wide – but he has become increasingly influential as an additional playmaker for the Pretoria side, and it’s something he hopes to continue doing during the United Rugby Championship, starting with Saturday’s opening clash against Leinster in Dublin.
“For me, the big thing is to play rugby, and as a fullback, you’re not necessarily in the game the whole 80 minutes.
“So, when we have the ball, I’m just looking for work, just to be useful wherever I can be used,” Kriel said.
“So, I wouldn’t say I won’t play No 10! I think everybody backs themselves at 10 – even the tighthead props! It’s nice. I’m backing myself wherever I’m playing ... If it’s from No 10 to 15 straight through, I wouldn’t mind.
“Just with the confidence in my game and the other guys around me.
“I’m enjoying my rugby at the moment.”
But it will also be a special moment for Kriel to line up at Aviva Stadium against someone like Johnny Sexton, the veteran Leinster flyhalf who has played a leading role in a couple of memorable victories over the Springboks at the famous ground.
Kriel’s first job will be to grab those up-and-unders that the 36-year-old Sexton is sure to launch into the air, and he is relishing the challenge.
“We had our prep through the Currie Cup, especially on high-ball catching.
“In the URC, the northernhemisphere sides love the big up-and-under – the Garryowen – so us outside backs are working hard on it, so we’re ready for what’s coming,” he said.
“Since I was a young boy, I’ve always watched sides like Leinster, especially with names like Johnny Sexton, who is now playing, but also the time when Brian O’Driscoll was still there, and Gordon D’Arcy.
“To be honest, also quite nervous, but very excited for the new challenge.
“We’ve seen a couple of clips of them, and done our homework.
“So, we know what’s coming and we know what to expect. It can change on the day, but we are just excited about the opportunity.”
Kriel was part of the Bulls team that were caught out by the intensity of a European side in the shape of Benetton in the Rainbow Cup final in Treviso in June.
But he feels that Jake White’s team know what to expect from the multiple PRO Rugby champions Leinster on Saturday.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a relief, but another opportunity to build on what we learnt against Benetton. Everyone saw the game, and it wasn’t our best performance.
“We took that opportunity as a stepping stone for growth in our game plan, and also as a team.
“This new competition is going to be a challenging competition, but I think it can only be good for our squad – with the rugby we’re playing,” Kriel said.
“This time around, we just have to be more clinical.
“It wasn’t our best performance, and we weren’t clinical enough.
But also, we didn’t play like the championship side we are.”