Jaco Kriel after concluding a three-year deal with the Lions: 'I really missed home'
He left the Lions’ den two years ago but soon Jaco Kriel was so home sick at Gloucester that his return was inevitable.
Sore hearts can mend but physically too‚ he is in need of reassembly.
“I really missed home. I missed my dad‚ I missed my family. I missed the Lions.
“Unfortunately I had a lot of injuries at Gloucester. They were good to me and they said I could come back to my family‚” explained Kriel‚ who has concluded a three-year deal with the Lions.
For the moment though he is out of commission.
“I had ankle surgery in December. They said three to four months‚ so basically March to April. I’m hoping for the best.
“It is looking good for now. My strength is good and I’ve been training on the anti-gravity treadmill.
"I will do proper running next week. It is a fragile injury because of the way the operation was done. I have to be careful about how hard I push and when to do what.
“It feels like after my first shoulder op that it didn’t stop. I think I was in the wrong mind set.
"You can’t play rugby being scared you are going to get injured. You have to give it your all.”
He is loath‚ though‚ to reflect on his time at Gloucester where he played just 16 matches as time lost.
“Definitely not‚ going there was a great experience. Otherwise I would have always wondered.
"What if I didn’t take the opportunity. It was good for me to experience England and see how it is.”
Naturally he is keen to add to his 11 Tests for the Springboks played between 2016 and 2017.
“I believe as a South African and a Springbok player that will never go away. When you are there you don’t realise how lucky you are to be part of that group.
"It is only when you don’t get picked or miss out through injury that you realise how special and how fortunate you are to play there.”
Having captained the Lions in Warren Whiteley’s extended absence Kriel knows he has a leadership role to play once he returns to fitness.
First though he feels he needs to re-establish his credentials.
“I was open‚” he said about his talks with the Lions.
“I told them I had a lack of game time the last two years. I just want to get out on the field and get going again and get a couple of games under my belt. If they feel I’m the right candidate.
"It mustn’t be forced upon me. I must earn it. I must earn the players’ respect again. I must earn that captaincy armband if it is there.”
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