When the Boks face the Wallabies in their comeback match in Rugby Championship play, Kriel will have the difficult challenge of stepping into the enormous shoes left by the injured Lukhanyo Am.
Am and Handre Pollard were both released back to their clubs for more medical evaluations after it was discovered on Wednesday that Am seems to have a significant knee injury.
Kriel has the enormous task of building forward momentum and making the plays that will release the SA outside-backs from his No. 13 channel.
Kriel, who last played for the Bok against New Zealand for less than 10 minutes after a sickening bump to the head left him out cold earlier this month, has played for the team just once.
When asked whether he felt the burden of reproducing Am’s magic, a contemplative Kriel promised him he was prepared for the difficult endeavour.
No, not at all, he replied with assurance.
Although Lukhanyo has set a high bar and is undoubtedly playing outstanding rugby, I am aware of my duties and my position within the squad. I am anticipating the challenge.
The 53-time veteran, who has also played in 53 Tests, believes that the 28-year-center old’s combination with Damian de Allende won’t be tough to attain.
Kriel expressed his excitement at rejoining Damian in the midfield.
“It doesn’t matter who plays in the middle; the players there work well as a team and get along. It is again another excellent chance.
“It makes a significant difference because we are all close friends off the field. When you play with men like Damian, it is always wonderful.
Kriel has most likely played on the wing when he has been used in recent games. He will play outside-center against the Wallabies on Saturday at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney (kickoff is at 11.30am).
In his few recent appearances for the Green and Gold, Kriel has sometimes had little effect on the proceedings while occupying the bookend of the backline.
However, it’s possible that moving back into the midfield may improve his performance.
Given that both players are capable ball carriers, though not the finest distributors, and that De Allende is on his inside, there shouldn’t be much cause for concern about the pair’s defensive prowess. The only real issue will be how well Kriel fits the role.
Then, it will be intriguing to observe how this weekend’s flyhalf Damian Willemse and fullback Willie le Roux manage to move the midfield duo forward.