Apr 15, 2015
Kruis' path to Saracens
It’s been quite the journey for lock forward George Kruis.
After cutting his teeth on the fields of Dorking RFC and in the Saracens academy system alongside fellow Saracens players Owen Farrell, Will Fraser, Jamie George and Jackson Wray, the athletic second row forward has gone on to showcase his abilities on the international stage, winning seven caps for England.
With the news that the 25-year old has committed his future to the club, we take a look at George’s path to becoming one of the country’s finest lock forwards.
George plied his trade with local club Dorking RFC, whilst studying at St. John’s Leatherhead: "I spent a lot of time in my childhood at Dorking and I know the guys there really well,” said Kruis. “I have got plenty of friends there and some that still play there and it is a great club. They have done wonders over the years and especially with the minis.
"We had a really good group when I was there with people like Chris York, who is now playing at Newcastle, Jake Cooper-Woolley, who is at Wasps, and Jason Roy, who is now playing cricket for Surrey and England.
"We won the U17 National Cup and plenty of the guys have gone on to great things, which is testament to the club, and me wearing the England shirt is another product of that."
Kruis also flourished at local college, St. John’s Leatherhead. Director of Sport Nick Platt speaking to In at the Side: “He was a bit of a bean pole – very tall, but athletic, agile, and very quick at the same time. He was an outstanding sevens player. I can remember the Worth 7s final one year when he went round the Brighton College winger.
”He wasn’t the wall he is today, but he certainly wasn’t afraid of the physical side.”
Kruis joined the Saracens academy at the age of 17. In a talented group of players that included four current senior players (Farrell, Fraser, George & Wray) plus other Premiership talent such as Alex Brown, James Short and Championship players Luke Baldwin, Jake Sharp and Henry Staff.
The then Head of Saracens academy Mike Hynard speaking in an In at the Side post on Kruis, said: “I first saw George play when he captained London and South East u18s, I was actually there to watch one of the other academy players, but I was looking for a second row to help us with A League games, and George was available so we took him on trial.
“He was a bean pole, with virtually no conditioning, and in one scrummaging session he sliced open his knee quite badly, needing both internal and external stitches.
“I guess you could say it was a blessing as he spent the eight weeks he was out in the gym, and meant I had to delay making a decision on him as we hadn’t given him a proper opportunity.
“But credit to George, he had the personality and attitude to put in the work. He could have felt sorry for himself, but he didn’t, and he put in the work.
“He also had the personality to work his way into that established group. He made it a situation where the club just couldn’t say no. It just goes to show that hard work can take you all the way!”
Training alongside ‘idols’
After entering the Saracens set-up in 2008, a year into Kruis’ career the club changed the management structure, with Brendan Venter and Mark McCall appointed at the club. With this came a change of ethos with younger players, with the new regimes insisting that the club’s youngest and brightest stars train alongside the senior side.
Kruis had the chance to train alongside influential players such as skipper Steve Borthwick, South African duo Schalk Brits and Ernst Joubert, plus the highly respected Hugh Vyvyan.
Kruis: “The first year I was at Saracens we were spilt up from the first team, with us guys in the academy just in the background. Since Brendan (Venter) came into the club the academy and senior team were joined together.
“I think you get the full effect of learning the game right next to some of your idols. It’s a great way of progressing young players, and the club want to keep a young core of players at the club for as long as they can and hopefully they can come through and become a big part of the club.”
Speaking to Chris Hewett in the Independent earlier this year, Kruis said of his time in the academy: “It was brilliant, right from the start. There were a group of young players – Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Jackson Wray, Will Fraser – all trying to make names for ourselves: they still call us the ‘Class of ’08’. And with Steve (Borthwick) there looking after us ... well, I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor or a more massive influence.
“In Steve’s fields of greatest expertise, the line-out and general leadership, he was something else. He was completely meticulous, he always wanted to help and he never let up. He’ll be a world-class coach, 100 per cent.
“Steve was always keen to get some of the younger guys working on the lineout during his time here. He was always feeding in his insight and experience but the best thing was is how he let you get on with it and get as much experience as you could calling the lineout. It was a big help when I was coming through, and being able to use Steve’s knowledge and expertise is something any young lock would love to use."
The road ahead – Sarries are in Kruis control
George has gone on to make 97 appearances for Saracens and has won 7 England caps in a stellar 2014/15 season for the lock forward. Kruis is now a huge figure within a squad that includes his good mates Owen, Will, Jamie and Jackson. He is among a “core” of players Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes can drive the Allianz Park club forward.
“When we started out here at Saracens there were nine players with less than 50 caps between them,” said McCall, “now we have a good group of players who have been at the club for a prolonged period since that change.
“We now have core of players with over 100 caps, with a host of players who will join them this season. These players have played alongside each other consistently for some time, and in the case of George, Jackson, Jamie, Owen and Will, since they began their careers. So when we talk about togetherness, unity, or what makes a team, it is that mass of experience that counts”.
“George has been at Saracens for a long time, and is part of core group of players who have progressed from the Academy to establish themselves as key players at the club. He has been in phenomenal form this season for both club and country, and his standing within the group has grown considerably. He’s only going to get better and better as a player, and we’re excited to see him do that here at Saracens.”