There remains a lingering perception that those Springboks based in Japan are somehow playing a brand of rugby that lacks physicality, but centre Jesse Kriel says it’s not as if he’s just been parking off playing touch rugby over the last year.
The 27-year-old plays for the Canon Eagles in the Top League, helping them to the quarterfinals, and is now looking forward to contributing fully to the Springboks’ effort to beat the British and Irish Lions.
“There’s always a lot of questions about the physicality in Japan, but there are a lot of foreign players there now and they are quite physical,” Kriel said.
“The tempo is quite quick as well. But no domestic competition matches Test match intensity and we’re getting a taste of the intensity we need at (Springbok) training this week.”
Some of the 46-man Bok squad for the international season are in camp in Bloemfontein.
While Kriel has consistently inked himself into all Springbok squads since the 2015 World Cup, he had the ill-fortune to get injured during South Africa’s 2019 triumph, but he says he does not feel like the Lions tour is a case of unfinished business for him.
“I gave everything I could at the last World Cup up to the time I got injured and I still very much felt part of the team and was able to contribute,” he said.
“So I don’t feel like I have unfinished business, this is a different series and tour. The make-up of the Lions team is such that they are the best players from each country in Britain and Ireland, so every guy is world-class and we know what they bring as individuals.
“But all the young guys coming through for us shows that our grassroots structures are working and this is a great opportunity for them to showcase what they can do.
“And the youngsters have great guys around to learn off, just look at Morne and Francois Steyn. They do the basics really well, they don’t make mistakes and we can all look up to them and try and replicate that.”