Scoring his first try in the Ciel et Blanc jersey, Juandre Kruger was in outstanding form against Stade Français on Saturday, hitting the front page of Monday’s ‘Midi Olympique’. The Springbok lock shares his thoughts on last weekend’s vital win (22-32), and the end of season which is fast approaching. (credit photo : Julien Poupart // Attitude Rugby)
Juandre, after beating Stade Français on Saturday, the Ciel et Blanc are now fifth on the TOP 14 log. Do you feel things are finally starting to come together for the team?
Absolutely. We have worked very hard the last few weeks, but a big turning point was the stage at Aix-les-Bains before the match in Grenoble. Those three days together got the team focussed, we prepared very well for that game, we played well, and we got good result which gave us confidence going into the Paris derby. Also on Saturday a big factor was the way a number of big players really stepped up. Benji Fall for instance, Bernard (Le Roux), Antoine (Battut), Lucho (Ducalcon) who played the full 80 minutes at tight-head, and of course Dimitri (Szarzewski) who led the team really well…they all had big games. The play-offs are starting to get close now, and we are a team that is good enough to be there. We owe it to ourselves to make the cut.
On a personal note, last Saturday you not only scored your first try, but probably had your best match to date in the Racing jersey…
Yeah, for sure that was pretty special! As a second-rower you don’t get to score that many tries, but it was my first for Racing, and it was special. I thought it was a big turning point at that moment of the game to get the score and to widen the gap on the scoreboard. I think we controlled the game well, and we denied them the bonus point, which has a big effect on the log at the moment. But the job’s not done yet! We’ve still got Biarritz, Clermont et Montpellier left to go. They will all be tough matches, but we’ll be going out to win all three and end up in a good spot in the log.
As the season progresses, are you feeling more comfortable on the field, and more especially in the role as lineout captain?
Yes definitely! (laughs) It’s a big factor, and the effort and time I put into learning the language are starting to pay off. Just being able to communicate, to understand the coaches, and express myself better during the game makes it far easier for me. If I’ve got confidence in the language I can speak confidently on the field and make confident decisions.
As for being lineout captain, that’s something I said I wanted to do from the first day I arrived. The lineout gives a massive platform for the team to play off, it gives stability and confidence. It puts the team at ease, and if we know we’ve got a good platform, we not only put the other teams under pressure, but it also gives us the possibility to play off opposition lineouts if we take them. The French call it “la conquête”, and if you control “la conquête” in a match it has an unbelievable effect. And we strive to control those things.
After the win against Stade Français the coaches have given all the players a week’s holiday. What are you planning to do?
It’s a great reward from Jackie and the coaches and the players really appreciate it. It’s been a long hard season, the guys have really put their bodies on the line we all need this week of rest. At this stage of the season, there a lot of niggles, everyone is carrying injuries and you need to manage yourself well. As for me, after a bit of physio on Monday, I’m off to Santorini in Greece and just relax.
With only three games left in the round-robin, what is the feeling in the team?
We have finally worked our way into the top six, and we are ready to push on from there. All the team leaders are leading well. All the guys in decision-making roles - Dimitri, Antoine, Henry (Chavancy), Max (Machenaud), Mike (Phillips), Juan Martín (Hernández), myself - we are making good decisions. We just have to keep on improving, doing our homework, making sure we are in position to make the right decisions at the right time.
More importantly, as a team, we’re feeling much more balanced now. After a difficult period all our internationals are back, and there won’t be any more no more disruptions with our test players coming and going. We will keep on working hard. We can always improve, and we must keep on improving in certain areas to prepare ourselves for the Cup final.
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