PRETORIA – Caster Semenya inspired Jesse Kriel’s marathon race for recovery which could see him run out for the Bulls in their quarter-final clash against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
Kriel suffered an ankle injury in their one-point defeat to the Stormers at the end of April and has been working hard behind the scenes to get back into contention for the latter parts of the Bulls’ campaign.
Before the injury, Kriel was one of the form players leaving the Bulls without one of their key players during a crucial part of the campaign.
Kriel ran into Semenya a few times during his rehabilitation where the two-time Olympic champion helped him stay positive while she was fighting her battle with the IAAF.
“We had quite a few sessions in the rehab, she trains here sometimes, and I was lucky enough to train with her a few times,” Kriel said.
“The most contagious thing about her is her mindset and how positive she is. She got me in a really good headspace, and she is a champion. It was special, and she helped me get my head into a good space during the recovery process.”
They keep talking, I keep winning. Isn't that beautiful...?🤞🗣— Caster Semenya (@caster800m) June 12, 2019
Kriel could not have asked for a better return, with the Bulls earning a playoff berth for the first time since 2013.
Featuring in the weekend’s quarter-final and beyond would serve as the perfect sendoff for Kriel, who has not experienced a playoff with the Bulls. He will swap Pretoria for Tokyo after this season where he will join the Canon Eagles.
“It is an unbelievable feeling, in the last couple of years we got so close and usually this time of the year it is a case of saying goodbye,” Kriel said.
“It is nice, getting to quarter-final rugby and giving yourself a chance. That is the biggest thing, and we have a chance to go over there and make some history.”
The Bulls will have the odds stacked against them travelling to New Zealand to face the Hurricanes, who have won three of their last four encounters against the Pretoria-based side.
“I don’t think anyone thinks the Bulls will go over there and win but we all believe that we will,” Kriel said.
“It is such a great challenge, and it is kind of nice being the underdog.”@ockertde