Jesse Kriel

Springbok centre Jesse Kriel. Photo: @springboks/X

Lukhanyo Am’s selfless act: The key to Kriel’s World Cup win

Injured Springbok star helped teammate shine. Learn the unique support strategy behind a Rugby World Cup victory.

Jesse Kriel

Springbok centre Jesse Kriel. Photo: @springboks/X

Sometimes, the most powerful contributions to a team’s success happen off the pitch. In the lead-up to the recent Rugby World Cup in France, Springbok centre Jesse Kriel opened up about how teammate Lukhanyo Am was instrumental in his stellar tournament performance.

Injury, Opportunity, and Teamwork

Kriel earned his starting position at centre after Am suffered a knee injury in a warm-up game and was sidelined. Despite the setback, Am rejoined the Springboks after Makazole Mapimpi was forced out of the tournament. While Am didn’t return to the pitch himself, his actions behind the scenes proved crucial.

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“A lot of people like to make it up as No.1 and No.2 [in the pecking order],” Kriel explains, “but I think Lukhanyo and I share a really special relationship. We are really good mates on and off the field. That’s the special thing in the squad – guys actually want the best for each other, and it is very rare in professional sport.”

Teamwork Above Ego

Kriel reveals how Am played a unique support role: sending detailed analyses of Kriel’s upcoming opponents and even mimicking their playing styles in training sessions. “It’s like he’s giving you pictures in training on what the opposition would present,” Kriel said.

This selfless dedication stems from a coaching philosophy instilled by coach Rassie Erasmus:

“That’s the thing that Rassie always speaks about,” Kriel emphasizes. “It’s about having the right people and not necessarily the best people. He said to us many times that there are ‘better rugby players than you guys all around the world’. However, he always speaks about having the right people in the team. “

Kriel on Understanding Your Role

“I think everyone is so clear on their roles, whether you are in the team or you are not,” Kriel said. “It’s just about understanding and putting your ego to the side and understanding what’s best for the team. It’s just about understanding that there is something bigger than yourself and you are playing for a country.”

This extraordinary display of teamwork underscores the power of a shared purpose and a focus on the team’s overall success. For the South African Springboks, these values form the backbone of their victories.