PRETORIA – Springbok centre Jesse Kriel says Saturday’s Test against Wales in Washington DC is no holiday and the Springboks must use it to lay down a marker for the remainder of the season.
While the once off Test in the American capital falls outside of the international Test window and the Bok team is likely to feature many fringe players, Kriel feels it carries the same level of importance as any other Test match and that the result will be crucial in setting the tone ahead of the Incoming Series against England.
“No, not at all. It is a Test match and not an exhibition, it is a proper Test match. There are no trials or anything like that, it is the best team that the coach thinks can get the job done. We are all excited we’ve got a job to go do there and it is a Test match that we need to go win,” Kriel said yesterday after training at St Stithian’s College.
Even though Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has selected a largely inexperienced side to travel to the US tonight, there is ample opportunity for the players travelling across the Atlantic Ocean to deliver on their selection by producing the type of rugby that Erasmus demands.
Kriel says the match against Wales will not only give them an opportunity to stem the tide of defeats, two to be exact, against the Europeans but it will also be the perfect platform for the Springboks to showcase their brand of rugby under Erasmus.
“It has been made clear that there is definitely not two teams. It is a Test match and really important for us, it is the first match of the season and we want to set the standard and show everyone the style of rugby we want to play.”
The Springboks have had to endure some trying times in the past two years under former coach Allister Coetzee and have slipped down world rugby’s pecking order.
While Erasmus and his army of Boks begin the season on the back-foot and clear underdogs against Wales and England, Kriel is under no illusion that his teammates will embrace the pressure of returning the Springboks back to the top of world rugby.
“There is always pressure when you play international rugby to win and to perform. That is something that you can either embrace or look at as a negative. I think we are all embracing it. People still see us as the underdog but we are really confident to go over there and get the result. We’ve got a job to do and it is all about us and getting the job done,” Kriel said.
Kriel has also embraced the competition that has emerged this season with the strong form shown by Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am and Andre Esterhuizen and believes that it is not only good for the selected individuals in growing their game but also beneficial to the team.
“I think it is always been like that at the Springboks. I think it is healthy competition and how excited must we be as South Africans when there is lots of people in a position and do well. We are all here for the same reason and goal and that is to win Test matches.
“If Lukhanyo, Damian, Andre or me play, we all do as much as we can to help the other guy prepare for the Test match.
“It’s not about an individual, people like to make it about the individual, it’s completely not like that.
“We are all good mates and we all want to help each other prepare for the Test on the weekend.”