JOHANNESBURG - The Springboks may have restored their dignity and pride with their inspiring series victory against England in June but they will face the ultimate test of their mettle in the upcoming Rugby Championship according to Springbok centre Jesse Kriel.
Prior to facing England under new coach Rassie Erasmus, the Springboks had reached an all-time low under the mentorship of Allister Coetzee. Not only had the Springboks suffered embarrassing defeats against Italy and a first home loss against Ireland, the South Africans had to endure record losses to New Zealand at home and away while Argentina also took a swipe at the Springboks.
While the Springboks have been able to hold their own at home more so against the Wallabies and Argentina, it is the away leg of the competition that has often seen them come short in a competition that has been dominated by the All Blacks. Kriel believes that the true test of how far the Springboks have come since Erasmus took over will be in how they perform overseas in the Rugby Championship.
“New Zealand is the best team in the world and Australia is filled with good teams and they showed it in the series against Ireland that they can play good rugby and in Super Rugby they have been performing well if you look at the Waratahs and Brumbies,” said Kriel in Johannesburg while attending Springbok sponsor MTN’s function of unveiling the 'Bozza' who will be travelling with the side until next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
"I think going over there will be the ultimate test. I think in the past few years we haven’t been good going to that side. The games have been really close so we will look to take that next step and convert those close games into victories."
Kriel is also aware of the fact that the Springboks will be put to the test by a more expansive game from their southern hemisphere adversaries as opposed to what the English presented them in June.
“I think it is obviously a different beast because in June we were playing against one team. We had a lot of time to prepare for that one team and now we face Australians, New Zealand and Argentina that bring a whole another ball game. There will be a lot more ball in play, a lot more attacking rugby instead of the generic kicking game,” added Kriel.
With Erasmus’ toughest assignment on the horizon and preparations with players from the Stormers and Bulls already underway in Stellenbosch, Kriel believes the split in having players in camp and others still playing Super Rugby with the Sharks and Lions could prove handy for the national team.
“The fact that a few of the teams are not playing Super Rugby at the moment and are in camp gives us a nice time to prep. We are really behind the Sharks and Lions in the play-off games to do well and bring that confidence into the Springbok team.”