Please everyone in South African and Bulls rugby, get those medical papers of Cornal Hendricks in order and get him into the Springboks national squad. But first let him lead to the Bulls to a Rainbow Cup victory against Benetton in Treviso, Italy in next Saturday’s final, writes Mark Keohane.
Hendricks was on fire in Durban as the Bulls qualified for the Rainbow Cup with a dominant 34-22 win against the Sharks.
Jake White’s Bulls needed just one bonus point to qualify and they got a four-try bonus point before an hour had been played. The match was over at 34-15, the Bulls lost their intensity and also lost two players to yellow cards for the final 20 minutes, with six of those minutes being played with 13 against 15.
The Sharks could only manage one converted try in those final 20 minutes and it was the Bulls who finished the match five metres from the Sharks tryline and with a penalty advantage. They opted against knocking over a simple three-pointer and instead booted the ball into touch to finish the match and win the South African Rainbow Cup conference.
Hendricks, who was out of rugby for three years because of a heart condition, was in 2015 advised to quit the game by doctors, who said if he continued playing he could suffer cardiac arrest.
Hendricks took three years out of the game and in February, 2019, returned to rugby at the Bulls. He has been a consistent first choice selection in Super Rugby, Super Rugby Unlocked, the Currie Cup and now the Rainbow Cup in the past 18 months. He has been superb throughout and was the player of the final in the victorious Bulls Currie Cup campaign.
He was again outstanding in the Rainbow Cup and he has been the form No 12 in South African domestic rugby.
Munster-based Damian de Allende is the first choice Bok centre and Cheetahs veteran Frans Steyn has been included in the Springboks squad to provide back up to De Allende.
But there is no disputing the quality of rugby Hendricks has played for the past year, and SA National Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus confirmed that the moment Hendricks’ medical papers were given the all-clear, he would be in the Springboks squad.
Erasmus, at the naming of the Boks squad, acknowledged that Hendricks’s omission had nothing to do with his rugby and said it was obvious he was good enough to make the 46 and even be a consideration for South Africa’s Sevens summer Olympics squad.
Mystery seems to surround Hendricks’s medical papers and it is a bizarre situation, given Hendricks has played for the Bulls for the past 18 months, has started every match at inside centre, has lasted 80 minutes in each match and in many of them has been the player of the match.
He scored a stunning try on Saturday evening against the Sharks, outpacing Curwin Bosch’s attempt at a cover tackle. Bosch is fast and for the veteran Hendricks to break clear showed the pace, while not quite as electric as when he made his Springboks debut as a winger five years ago, is still pretty damn quick.
White’s decision to switch Hendricks from wing to inside centre has also proved inspiring.
The Bulls, in the three months before White’s arrival, had won eight matches in 16 in 2019 and one from six in 2020. That’s seven from 22!
SA Rugby Magazine’s Juandre Joubert detailed White’s Bulls tenure.
Bulls Record under Jake White
Played: 25, Won: 19, Lost: 5, No Result: 1
SR Unlocked: (Champions)
Currie Cup: (Champions)
Won: 5 (Including semi and final)
No Result: 1 (Covid cancellation)
*SuperRugby Unlocked Champions, Currie Cup Champions and Rainbow Cup SA Conference Champions.
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