Judge me on my game - Kirchner
Zane Kirchner may give the impression of a cool customer who doesn’t let much faze him, but it is clear the constant baiting from fans has affected him a little.
Kirchner has been irritated by the constant criticism on social media networks about his play, the derogatory name-calling and those who simply have written him off because he was selected for Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship in Brisbane against Australia.
So much so that he showed a glimpse of irritation when asked about it after being selected at 15 for Saturday’s test.
“Everyone seems to have a perception of me coming back into the side and kicking every ball, but the way we play you have to play what is in front of you. You need to execute that towards your goal,” Kirchner said.
But when pressed on the issue the Bok fullback stopped, composed himself and then fired back.
“Everyone has an opinion on me right now but it needs to come down to the right thing. Judge me on what is done and not what is said by individuals,” Kirchner said.
“I don’t want to be rude to the public because we as a team always appreciate their support, but it is always good to know what the coaches think…”
And while the social media world exploded after he was selected, few actually took the time to analyse the thinking behind his return. With Bjorn Basson injured, and also out of form, the Boks were forced into a change anyway.
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Willie le Roux returned to the wing where he made his mark in Super Rugby and the obvious candidate for fullback was Kirchner.
And while many may look at his performances in the past and judge him on that, Kirchner and Le Roux will swop roles during the game with the winger being given license to roam.
Kirchner admitted as much when he was asked about slotting in with Le Roux in the backline.
“Willie is a bit unpredictable, in knowing what he is going to do, but then again knowing there is a fullback next to me makes my work a little bit easier in terms of when to do the counter attack. With Willie and the type of game he is playing, he can slot in any position and could be there during the game.
"For me it isn’t where he plays, but the fact that I can slot in off him and run off the plays he creates and the other way around. I think that is how we are going to try and run the whole show.”
Kirchner of course, didn’t play in the previous tests this year because of a hand injury, and has struggled to return.
He has no qualms about that, and believes coach Heyneke Meyer made the right decisions in the June internationals
“It was tough getting back into the side with the way the guys have been performing. But it is now all about stepping up and proving again that you are worth coming into the team,” he explains.
“For me it was quite unfortunate breaking my finger. I didn’t have a lot of game time and it was justifiable for Heyneke to pick the guys in form. Now I’m getting another chance, and it is an opportunity for a second chance, to breathe life into my Bok career again.”
Kirchner may have been punted by Meyer as a player who helps the backline score tries, but he isn’t even thinking about crossing the whitewash on Saturday.
“I don’t see myself scoring tries,” he says, “I see myself putting guys away. Try-scoring is not as important as the guy that makes the last pass. That’s where I want to be.”
Of course if Kirchner does feed off Le Roux and create some magic, it will go a long way to changing perceptions.