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How Olympic champion Caster Semenya inspired Bulls centre Jesse Kriel

20 June 2019 - 11:40 By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Bulls centre Jesse Kriel and Women's Olympic champion Caster Semenya at Loftus.
Bulls centre Jesse Kriel and Women's Olympic champion Caster Semenya at Loftus.
Image: TWITTER/Jesse Kriel

Bulls centre Jesse Kriel turned to Caster Semenya for inspiration during his hour of need and used the double Olympic champion's ‘contagious positive mindset’ to deal with a knee injury that ruled him out of Super Rugby for weeks.

Kriel‚ who is expected to be a key member Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ plans for the World Cup in Japan later in the year‚ suffered the injury in the Bulls' defeat to the Stormers in April.

Semenya was working with fitness trainers at Loftus when the two met and they trained together as he worked towards regaining full fitness in time for the Bulls’ quarterfinal clash against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

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“We had a few sessions in the rehab together because she was training over here at Loftus‚” said Kriel.

“I was lucky enough to train with her a few times and the most contagious thing about her was her mindset.

"She is positive and I took a lot of motivation and inspiration from her during my recovery time.

"She got me into a really good head space.

"She is a worthy champion and she really helped me through the recovery process.”

Kriel is now looking forward to helping the Bulls get over the line against the Hurricanes‚ a tricky side that should ask a lot of question of the Bulls in front of their own supporters. “Obviously we know who their dangerous players are‚" he said.

"They have guys like Ardie Savea‚ their half back pairing is also strong and you have a guy like Ngani Laumape on the wing who gives them gain line.

"They have key players and they are complete as a team‚ but our performance last weekend was good.

“We have guys who are peaking at the right time.

"It is Super Rugby‚ the quarterfinals and we have been pretty much playing a knockout brand of rugby for most of the time this season.

"We have been able to take penalties whenever they are on offer and we don’t want to change much.”

A number of Bulls players like Handrè Pollard‚ Jason Jenkins‚ Duane Vermeulen‚ Lood de Jager‚ Eli Snyman‚ Handro Liebenberg will be leaving Loftus together with Kriel at the end of the campaign and he is feeling nostalgic.

“You do get a bit nostalgic‚ not only for the rugby but for the memories and friendships that we made here over the years‚" he said.

"I remember coming here as an 18-year-old fresh out of school and living across the road from here.

"I literally have been with some of these guys every day for the past seven years and that is something that I will miss moving forward.

"I am leaving with good memories‚ friendships and it is amazing how time flies and people grow.

"A guy like Handrè is obviously married now and we arrived here very young with the ambition of just playing rugby.”