PRETORIA – The Bulls will start this season on a clean slate and with a hunger to achieve big things, according to Springbok and Bulls centre Jesse Kriel.
And with a new boss at the helm in John Mitchell, Kriel feels that they will begin the Super Rugby season afresh after the misfortunes of the past two years.
Kriel got his first taste of action this year and for the first time under the watchful eye of Mitchell in Saturday’s 21-12 win over the Jaguares in the Bulls third pre-season friendly and even though not a perfect performance, Kriel showed glimpses of the player that shone in his breakthrough international season in 2015.
The Bulls will have an opportunity of setting a marker for their campaign in the season opener against the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld in two weeks’ time but Kriel thinks there are still a few details to get right before then.
“I think every season you have to look at it as a clean slate. All my focus is over here and developing my skill sets as a player and developing what I can contribute towards the team,” said Kriel after training at Loftus yesterday.
“I think everyone else has the same focus, we’ve got a bigger purpose that we all working towards. The biggest goal is that first game against the Hurricanes. That is where all the energy is going towards. We’ve had some good prep so far but we are still not where we want to be but we are working towards that.”
It will take more than just the influence of Mitchell and a positive outlook to get the Bulls to put to bed the disaster of last year and it will take individual and collective leadership from all the players, which Kriel is more than willing to assume.
Still at the tender age of 23, Kriel is easily regarded as a senior player within the Bulls squad with over 31 Super Rugby appearances for the Bulls, while his Test tally is not too far behind that, making him one of Mitchell's leaders.
“All of the guys have put up their hands and we have our mini groups, so there is a lot of responsibility in and around the squad. Guys are really enjoying it and for me, personally, I love it when there is responsibility given. It makes you feel you are part of something and you are contributing to something. It’s really encouraging and nice to be a part of,” Kriel said.
And talking about starting new things in a new season, Kriel has all but settled the long raging battle of which position he should play between fullback and centre.
With Mitchell’s new approach, it seems as though the opposition must be prepared for Kriel to appear from anywhere on the field, even if the No 13 is on his back.
“The thing with Mitch, he said to us we need to be able to play wherever. If you look at the backline that played on the weekend, every guy can play in at least three positions. Wherever you do find yourself on the field you are comfortable in that position, which is a great thing whether it be on counter attack, set phases, set-piece or defending.
“The guys are really working hard on their skill set and I’m enjoying playing 13 at the moment and working hard on becoming a better player so I can contribute more towards the team,” added Kriel.