On Saturday, 10 June, Loftus Versfeld played host to a reinvigorated Springbok team who, following a disappointing 2016 season, were looking to overturn a current four-match losing streak. Among the seasoned professionals in the starting line-up were former UP students and Varsity Cup Champions from 2012 and 2013 – Franco Mostert (Lock) and Jessie Kriel (Outside Centre). Mostert, aged 26, made his eighth appearance for the Springboks, while Kriel 23) made his 18th appearance for the national squad. The match marked the first of three matches in this year’s Castle Lager incoming tour series season opener friendlies.
The match got underway in perfect conditions as an expectant crowd of 29 313 spectators watched the Springbok rugby team attempt to make up for what is regarded as one of the worst chapters in their history: their loss of eight of their twelve games in 2016.
The early stages of the match saw the Springboks take immediate control of the game as the forwards put in an irresistible performance in both the line-outs and scrums, with Franco Mostert an ever-present force in the line-outs. Continued dominance ensued for the remainder of the first half, as the forwards continued to control the breakdowns and set pieces. An explosive series of events in the 30thminute of the game saw Mostert receive the ball off the back of a rolling maul before almost forcing himself over the line to score the opening try of the game. It was not to be, however, as France retained possession and kicked the ball down field. Following an amazing run through the French team from half way, the Springboks responded in the same minute as the ball made its way through the backline in a series of exceptional passes, eventually coming the way of Jessie Kriel, who sped past the opposition to open the scoring for the Springboks with a try next to the posts in the 31st minute. The try marked Kriel’s fourth in a Springbok jersey.
Unfortunately a succession of play in the 58th minute by the French saw Kriel go to ground, as he was involved in a collision in which he sustained a blow to the head. Kriel subsequently left the field to be treated for concussion and never returned. Kriel has since been ruled out of the second test in Durban on 17 June. The Springboks continued to dominate the remainder of the match, posting a final score of 37-14.
With an entire season yet to come, the Springboks will look to build on the foundations laid in their opening game of the season, with former UP athletes Jessie Kriel and Franco Mostert being central components to the team’s future success.
Photo: Stefan Stander