Bulls’ excitement at Jesse’s return needs a dose of reality

Jesse Kriel of the Vodacom Bulls during the Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls at Jonsson Kings Park on March 30, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Jesse Kriel of the Vodacom Bulls during the Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls at Jonsson Kings Park on March 30, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

The Springbok is undoubtedly a class act and valuable for Saturday’s semi, but he faces challenges on two fronts.

While there’s nothing wrong with raving about the return of Jesse Kriel to the Bulls’ starting line-up for Saturday’s Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Hurricanes in Wellington, there needs to be perspective on the matter.

The 25-year-old Springbok centre’s presence is undeniably valuable and over the past two seasons he’s established himself as a key player for his franchise.

ALSO READ: ‘Contagious’ Caster inspires Jesse … and the Bulls

However, the last time he played a competitive match was at the end of April against the Stormers, before he sustained an ankle injury.

Kriel boasted earlier this week that he was probably ready for action again last week against the Lions already, but coach Pote Human wanted him train with the team.

Those reservations are now gone.

“Jesse’s experience and ability speaks for itself and to have him back for this match is good news for us,” said Human.

There’s no guarantee though that Kriel will be match fit against extremely accomplished opponents.

One factor that needs to be taken into account too is that the midfielder is replacing one of the unsung heroes of the Bulls’ campaign in Burger Odendaal.

Not only does Kriel have to find his mojo speedily, he’ll be expected to provide the same influence as Odendaal.

“He lifts the whole spirit of the team,” said Human.

“Naturally it’s a blow not to have Burger with us. He’s had a great season. But I believe Jesse and Johnny Kotze have the ability to deal with the Hurricanes midfield, especially Ngani Laumape.”

Given how the Bulls’ formidable pack could be a trump card against the finesse of their hosts, Human is excited to have Jason Jenkins back as lock partner for the dynamic RG Snyman.

“Jason just brings so much physicality into the mix,” said the Bulls mentor.

“He also has an established relationship with RG. He’s played well lately. It’s a really competitive combination.”

The experienced Schalk Brits is on tour with the team, having passed his concussion protocol, but wasn’t considered due to a bout of flu.

Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Cornal Hendricks, Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze, Rosko Specman, Handre Pollard (capt), Andre Warner, Duane Vermeulen, Hanro Liebenberg, Marco van Staden, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Jaco Visagie, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: Johan Grobbelaar, Simphiwe Matanzima, Wiehahn Herbst, Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Ivan van Zyl, Manie Libbok, Divan Rossouw.

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