Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Dan Kriel is probably used to flying just a little below the radar.
He is, after all, twin brother of more celebrated Jesse, the now Canon Eagles-based (Japan) holder of 46 Springbok caps.
But although perhaps not the most obvious of trump cards in Saturday’s Super Rugby derby between the Lions and Stormers at Emirates Airline Park, the home side’s starting inside centre has a more important responsibility for the arguably underdog Highveld outfit than some may realise.
For starters, he will be directly up against the Capetonians’ hugely-decorated No 12 Jamie Roberts, the Welsh legend who has already had a strong impact on the backline organisation of the Stormers – it didn’t take him long to become a noticeable, senior leadership figure for his new outfit.
Roberts, renowned true professional that he is, has adapted faster in stamina-related terms than might reasonably have been expected after being plucked away from his former Bath base in the English mid-winter and infused into the scorching mid-summer plans of the Newlands-anchored side.
He tweeted earlier in the week, for instance, about the love-hate novelty of training in temperatures of above 40 deg C at Riebeek-Kasteel before the switch to a squad braai (complete with short personal video clip for proof) at the nearby family wine farm of the Du Toit brothers – Bok superstar Pieter-Steph and still Super Rugby-rookie loose forward ally Johan – complete with revitalising, large swimming facility on the property.
The 110kg British and Irish Lions star has been influential in both of his first two, winning appearances in the Stormers’ record achievement of denying their respective opponents a single point on the scoreboard with his general defensive acumen and own rock-like solidity in his busy channel.
They will also now want him to help head coach John Dobson’s stated desire – following the 13-0 Bulls triumph – of sharpening their attack.
But on the subject of Dobson, the mastermind will know only too well that Kriel, who will share midfield duties for the Lions on Saturday with another player with Western Cape links, former Paarl Boys’ High School wunderkind Mannie Rass, has intimate knowledge of his rugby philosophy.
Only a few months ago, with Dobson at the helm last season of Western Province’s Currie Cup campaign for a fifth time since 2015, Kriel was a fairly adhesive member of his backline and had a total of three seasons – including for the Stormers – in the shadow of Table Mountain before his summer switch back to Highveld climes.
So he is familiar not only with Dobson’s methods but sports plenty of intelligence over the personnel in the Stormers’ back division for Saturday; that information could be valuable in several respects to the man in the other booth for the derby, Ivan van Rooyen.
The Lions’ match-day squad will include another player, though, who has been a bit of a yo-yo between Newlands and Emirates Airline Park over the last year or so, chunky tighthead prop Carlu Sadie, veteran Jannie du Plessis’s understudy this Saturday.
Bellville-born Sadie played Super Rugby for the Lions in 2019, but then shifted back to contractual base of Cape Town for the Currie Cup before returning to red-and-white loyalty for this year’s SANZAAR competition, so his still hot-off-the-press knowledge of set-piece play in the Stormers’ ranks is another little obstacle Dobson and company will have to work their way around.
Expect to see the odd “Plan B”, then, come into play for the visitors in the derby …
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Dylan Smith
Substitutes: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Wandisile Simelane
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Johan du Toit, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)
Substitutes: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 Ernst van Rhyn, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Jean-Luc du Plessis
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