Hennie Kriel, where it all began

Photo of Hennie Kriel and Sokwakhana Zazini taken by Reg Caldecott

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He was not only an excellent teacher in the classroom that wanted the best for his pupils but he also goes the extra mile for his athletes, at Tuks Athletics Club, in Pretoria. Meet coach Hennie Kriel from Meyerton, in Gauteng, who has been involved in track and field for more than 30 years. Kriel who has his International Association of Athletics (IAAF) level 3 qualification in sprints was active in sport when growing up but fell immediately in love with track and field where he competed in the 100m and 200m sprints.


One of his highlights as an athlete was grabbing the silver medal in the boys’ under-18 200m sprints at the South African Youth Championships, in Bloemfontein, in 1972. Once Kriel matriculated, he joined the police force for four year before he completed his Diploma in Education at the Pretoria Teachers’ Training College in 1982. A year later, he started teaching at Pierneef Primary School, in Pretoria, before he joined the Pretoria Teachers’ Training College two years later but left the teaching profession in 1991 to take up athletics full time as a coach. Teaching has always been in Kriel blood as a number of his family members were and are still in the trade including:  his mother, wife, mother-in-law and three of his siblings. “I was a teacher and coaching came naturally for me after I retired as an athlete. I actually became a teacher so that I can coach. During my study years sport science was not established yet as a profession,” said Kriel.


However, in 1997, Kriel turned his attention to rugby after head coach of the South Western Districts (SWD) Eagles Phil Pretorius asked him to join the franchise as the fitness coach. A year later, Pretorius left the SWD Eagles which saw former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer take up the role as head coach and two years later (2000) Meyer and Kriel joined the Pretoria based Blue Blues.  The duo had a successful spell at the Bulls following three consecutive Currie Cup titles (2002 until 2004). At the end of 2005 Kriel left professional rugby and went back to coach track and field in 2008.


Kriel has been coach of many Athletics Gauteng North U18, U20 and Senior teams that competed National Championships. He was also coach of the SA team that competed at the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) African Senior Championships, in Durban, in 2016. Kriel had a training group of more than 70 athletes this season that included your top junior and senior athletes in the country. One of the them being Sokwakhana Zazini who was crowned 400m hurdles champion at the IAAF World U18 Championships, in Kenya, last year. This year, Zazini followed that up with another gold at the World U20 Championships, in Finland.


The four-time SA 100m hurdles champion Rikenette Steenkamp has had a season to remember after she broke the 100m hurdles national record, came second at the CAA African Senior Champion and won the inaugural Athletics World Cup. The 100m silver medallist at last year’s World University Games and the fifth South African to run sub 10 seconds Thando Roto has also been under Kriel’s guidance. Roto who was out for most of the season with Achilles tendinitis has a seasonal best of 10.17 seconds, at a meet in Praha, Czech Republic, in June.


These are just a few of Kriel athletes who have represented the country at the highest level.

Kriel said It is an unbelievable privilege to work with young people and to assist them in reaching their goals. “As a coach I am very proud at the achievements of the athletes. Obviously, there is always opportunity for improvement and growth,” he said.


Written by Keagan Mitchell