CAPE TOWN – As much as Cornal Hendricks is awaiting medical clearance from SA Rugby to be selected in a national team again, the 33-year-old inside centre will have other points to prove when he runs out for the Bulls against the Sharks in Saturday’s Rainbow Cup SA decider.
National director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said following the Bok squad announcement for the upcoming Tests against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions that Hendricks would have been included in the 46-man squad, based on his excellent form.
But his heart condition that kept him sidelined for a few years led to a litigation situation with SA Rugby, which Bulls coach Jake White said last week he hopes will be resolved within a few days.
Erasmus added that he and Bok coach Jacques Nienaber had met with Hendricks recently to discuss the matter, and that they were waiting for the “green light” from the SA Rugby medical team to be able to pick the former Boland centre and Cheetahs wing. But there is another coach who also wants Hendricks in his team – Blitzboks boss Neil Powell. Erasmus said that the Bulls No 12 would be considered for the Sevens and 15-man Boks.
So, after that all drama, where should he end up?
Erasmus has previously said that any player in the mix for both teams would have to decide where they want to do. Someone like Bulls star centre Stedman Gans has opted for the Olympics, and will begin his return to the pitch from injury in a warm-up tournament in Johannesburg. But that is not necessarily the right move for the Boks … Shouldn’t the leading brand of the organisation get the best players? That is why Gans may have been a better bet for the 15-man Boks had he not been ruled out of action for such a long time.
Hendricks now finds himself in that scenario as well. First of all, he would want to make a big statement with yet another outstanding performance at Kings Park on Saturday (6.15pm kick-off). It’s a high-stakes game, with a place in the Rainbow Cup final up for grabs.
The Bulls, who have a four-point lead, need just a losing point to make it to the Italian finale on June 19, while the Sharks need a four-try bonus point and must prevent the Pretoria side from getting any bonus point themselves. But personally, Hendricks can prove that he should be in the 15-man Bok squad for the Tests against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions rather than the Blitzboks at the Tokyo Olympics – as both schedules clash in late July.
He has been instrumental in the Bulls backline’s attacking progress, with his jinking runs from deep, hitting the advantage line at pace and solidity in defence making him the ideal back-up to Damian de Allende.
Frans Steyn hasn’t played much rugby recently due to the Cheetahs’ omission from the Rainbow Cup, so he will not be as sharp as Hendricks is right now.