PRETORIA (Reuters) – Centre Jesse Kriel has been passed fit for the Bulls for Saturday’s Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Hurricanes in Wellington and said his return has been inspired by training with Caster Semenya.
The Springbok is one of two changes to the Bulls side for the knockout fixture.
Kriel has been missing since late April with an ankle injury but will take his place in the midfield after intensive rehabilitation in Pretoria that has seen a quicker than expected return to action.
He trained with Semenya on a number of occasions as part of his rehab and says her positivity in her on-going battle with the International Association of Athletics Federations over their eligibility regulations for athletes with differences in sexual development has been an inspiration.
“I was lucky enough to train with her a few times. She attends the same gym I did part of my rehab at,” Kriel told reporters.
“The most contagious things about her is her mindset, just how positive she is. I took a lot of motivation and inspiration from that during my recovery.
“She got me into a really good headspace. She’s a champion. It was really special, she really helped me.”
Kriel comes in for injured centre Burger Odendaal, with Johnny Kotze moving to the inside centre berth and Kriel slotting back in at number 13.
The other change from the 48-27 victory over the Lions last Saturday sees Jason Jenkins return from injury to partner RG Snyman at lock.
“Jesse’s experience and ability speaks for itself and to have him back for this match is good news for us,” Bulls coach Pote Human said.
“Jason has also been playing really well lately and he forms a very competitive combination with RG, so it is a plus having that.”
He added that the three-time champion’s pre-tournament goal of reaching the final remained their objective despite a mixed regular-season campaign.
“We prepared to play in the final. We are now three matches away from that, but realise that we cannot look past this one against a very dangerous Hurricanes team,” Human said.
“They play at home, have won this competition before and have so many strike players that will keep us busy. We have found some good momentum in the last couple of weeks though and will back ourselves on Saturday.”
(Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)