Meet the South African centre with Lions connections

Who is Jesse Kriel: Ten things you should know about the Springboks centre 

South Africa centre Jesse Kriel has an impressive sporting pedigree – here’s the lowdown on the Springbok.

Ten things you should know about Jesse Kriel

1. Kriel, and his twin brother, Dan, were born in Cape Town on 15 February 1994.

Dan Kriel is a centre who has played for the Bulls, Stormers, Lions and South Africa U20.

The pair both played in the Junior World Cup in 2014 and both started the final, in Auckland, which South Africa lost 21-20 to England.

2. Kriel attended Maritzburg College, a boys’ high school in Pietermaritzburg.

Old boys include Butch James, the former Springbok fly-half, referee Craig Joubert and South African hero of RWC 1995 Joel Stransky.

3. Kriel’s great grandfather John Hodgson was a flanker from Gosforth who won seven caps for England.

Hodgson also toured with British & Irish Lions, then the British Isles, in 1930, winning two caps against New Zealand before he had played for England.

4. Kriel might be the only South Africa player whose family are in possession of a Lions cap. Hodgson was Lion No 265 and the tourists arranged for the cap to be sent to his family.

Kriel said: “I’d always heard from my gran, who was married to his son, that he was a big guy and a really hard man from the stories that I heard – playing in the forwards as a big strong guy.”

5. While he was at school Kriel, who is a fitness fanatic even by modern rugby standards, would sneak into the gym at night to work out.

He explained: “One of my best mates at school, his dad was the deputy headmaster.” The friend had a key and Kriel copied it.

6. During the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, Kriel kept fit on the family farm of his girlfriend, Hope Mortimer, in Hibberdene, about 100km from Durban.

According to the South Coast Herald, his daily workout started with a 3km warm-up, 10x500m sprints and a 2km warm-down. Then there are the weights to consider.

7. The day Kriel finished his final exams at Maritzburg College, he flew to Pretoria to join the Bulls’ Super Rugby training squad along with his brother.

Handré Pollard joined up at the same time.

8. At the 2015 Rugby World Cup Kriel played in all seven games, but in 2019 his World Cup lasted only 24 minutes of the opening match against New Zealand in Yokohama.

A hamstring injury ruled him out of the tournament after he’d come off the bench. He was replaced in the squad by Damian Willemse but did make it back to Japan to watch the final thanks to a benefactor.

9. Kriel made his Springbok debut in the July before the 2015 World Cup, starting against Australia in Brisbane. He scored on his debut, in a 24-20 defeat.

10. In 2021 Kriel suffered a gruesome facial injury playing for Canon Eagles in the Japanese Top League and the image got thousands of likes on social media.

Kriel was gashed in a collision with Yamaha Jubilo fly-half Sam Greene but Kriel’s side won 40-32.

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