Whether the rest of his teammates follow suit is an open question, but you can bet top money that Jesse Kriel will hold a fierce belief in the Bulls’ ability to upset the Hurricanes in Saturday’s Super Rugby quarterfinal in Wellington.
It’s not difficult to pinpoint where that optimism comes from: the 25-year-old Springbok centre met up with Caster Semenya twice during his rehab from the ankle injury he sustained at the end of April.
And no professional athlete currently provides more inspiration than South Africa’s queen of the track, who’s fighting the good fight against the IAAF’s controversial new gender rules.
“I was lucky enough to train with her a few times. She attends the same gym I did part of my rehab at,” said Kriel.
“The most contagious things about her is her mindset, just how positive she is. I took a lot of motivation and inspiration from that during my recovery.
“She got me into a really good headspace. She’s a champion. It was really special, she really helped me.”
Kriel’s reward for his hard work in recovering quicker than expected is being back in time for a maiden playoff, a privilege he and various other stalwarts haven’t been able to experience due to the Bulls’ mediocrity of the last few years.
The midfielder, who burst onto the scene as a 20-year-old fullback in 2015, is naturally grateful as he bids the franchise goodbye at the conclusion of this campaign to play in Japan for Canon Eagles.
“It’s 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,” said Kriel.
“It’s nice, getting to quarterfinal rugby and giving yourself a chance. That is the biggest thing, and we have a chance to go over there and make some history. I don’t think anyone thinks the Bulls will go over there and win but we all believe that we will.
“It is such a great challenge, and it is kind of nice being the underdog.”