Kriel excited to return to SA with Zebre for double-headers

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  • Post published:April 13, 2023

Richard Kriel is looking forward to returning to South Africa for the upcoming Vodacom United Rugby Championship double-headers starting this weekend as a vastly more experienced player since joining Zebre Parma. There’s also the prospect of playing against his brother. And a trip to the Spur restaurant.

“I can’t wait. The first thing I’m going to do when I’m back is go to the Spur and order buffalo wings and an original Spur burger,” says Kriel while packing. Kriel and his Zebra teammates will start their South African campaign with a match against the Vodacom Bulls at Emirates Airline Park as part of the first double-header this weekend. Then a week later they’ll be at Loftus Versfeld for a clash with the Emirates Lions.

“It would’ve been nice to play the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus, which would’ve been an extraordinary experience. But I’m excited to see my family and old friends again,” says Kriel, who started his senior career with the Vodacom Bulls before moving to Zebre last year.

This could also be the first time that Kriel plays against his brother, Vodacom Bulls fullback David, since they faced off in a South African Under-21 final in 2019. On that occasion, Richard got the better of his older brother.

“I still rub his nose in it ‘till this day,” he says with a laugh.

“That was the last time we played against each other. David was still at Western Province and I was at the Vodacom Bulls. We played that final in Bloemfontein. There was a story about us in the local newspaper as two brothers playing against each other because we were both at school at Grey College in Bloemfontein, so it was a bit of a homecoming for us. I beat him that day. We won 33-27.”

Also a fullback, the respect Kriel has for his brother’s talent is undeniable.

“Wherever my brother plays he will excel. He’s a bloody good rugby player. It’s a great journey for both of us. We’ve played together and maybe one day if our paths cross again we’ll play together again. But at the moment it’s going well with him and me so hopefully we can keep going like this.”

Kriel says his own move to Zebre has been an eye-opener in terms of his game, and he believes regular game time in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship itself has taken his game to another level.

“It’s been great for my game. Obviously, I want to play at the highest level and the Vodacom United Rugby Championship is exactly that. At the Vodacom Bulls I mainly just played Currie Cup. I think I played one VURC game for the Vodacom Bulls. So joining Zebre and playing against all of these amazing teams and great players has been fantastic. I haven’t played this much consistent rugby in my professional career which I’m very grateful for.

“This has taught me so much more about the game itself. Assistant coach Dave Williams has taught me so much. Just the way he analyses the game and how I can use that has helped me a lot. Dave watches a game so differently. A normal spectator might look at a team that scores a try and applaud the try. But the way I’ve seen Dave do it is he sees where that starts a lot earlier than the try itself. There are so many things that lead to that try which he sees and perhaps a normal spectator doesn’t always notice. It’s been a big eye-opener for me in terms of how to watch the game and play it. There are a lot of factors in a game that build on each other. I’ve learnt so much about rugby itself.”

Kriel says the competition has already given him some great moments. “My first away game was against Munster and to run out to a sold-out stadium there was incredible. Playing away at Ulster was also incredible with the fans there and the music and the lights. Just an incredible experience.”

And the opportunity to now try and get another victory over his older brother would rank pretty high up there as well.