"Home Farewell" Former Springboks and Gloucester Flanker Plays Final Home Match - Ruck

“Home Farewell” Former Springboks and Gloucester Flanker Plays Final Home Match

Hard-hitting back-rower Jaco Kriel may have played his final home match at the Emirates Airlines Park, after his Lions side failed to qualify for the United Rugby Championship play-offs. There is increasing speculation that Kriel is set to retire at the end of the season, as the former Springbok enters the twilight of his career.

The Emirates Lions sit in tenth in the URC, and last Saturday’s defeat to Leinster sees all play-off hopes lost for the Johannesburg side. Kriel will run out once more for the Lions this season, in the dead-rubber curtain caller against Zebre. This match will be played at the Bulls’ Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, as the 33-year-old has expectedly played his last ‘true’ home game.

Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen discussed Kriel’s fantastic career with South African outlet Independent Online.

“He is just relentless. That is his character, that is who he is. Jaco is the kind of guy you want in your team.

Jaco Kriel of Gloucester Rugby is tackled by Bryce Heem of Worcester Warriors during the Gallagher Premiership Match between Gloucester Rugby and Worcester Warriors at Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester, Gloucestershire on December 1. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“I don’t think he can regret one day in his professional career. I spoke to him earlier this week and his career has literally come full circle. He started here and he had the privilege to go to Japan, go to Europe and end it off back here.

“What a career. What a guy.”

Kriel has made 11 test caps for South Africa, making his debut against Ireland in their Summer tour of 2016. Kriel has enjoyed a globetrotting career, starting in Johannesburg before joining the Kubota Spears in Japan, and eventually heading to the Premiership for a two-year stint with Gloucester Rugby.

Kriel quickly became a fan favourite at Kingsholm Stadium, through his time there from 2018 to 2020. He scored five tries during his time in the West Country, before heading back home to South Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic. The flanker has been with the Lions ever since, and is regarded as one of the last greats of the ‘Old Guard.’