CAPE TOWN – Both players have been on the sidelines in recent months, but will now get another chance at international rugby through the Southern Kings.
Cornal Hendricks and Kurt Coleman have starred for their Super Rugby franchises – the Cheetahs and Stormers respectively – over the years, with Hendricks even becoming a Springbok starter under Heyneke Meyer.
But just when Hendricks signed for the Stormers, he was diagnosed with a heart problem, and didn’t play for the Cape side at all.
He was ruled out of rugby as Saru and WP kept mum on his condition, and he eventually had to leave. He tried to get going again at Toulon in France and even the Bulls, but both clubs weren’t prepared to follow through with a contract.
He featured in the World Club 10s for an invitational team in Mauritius in June, whereafter the 29-year-old from Wellington returned to Boland club rugby with his home team Roses United, where he has been scoring tries like it’s going out of fashion in recent weeks.
Now the man with five tries in 12 Bok Tests is over his ailment, and ready to rumble in Europe’s PRO14 as one of just two internationals in the current group, along with Italian loose forward and former Bolander Dries van Schalkwyk.
Experienced flyhalf Coleman has been largely out of the mix at the Stormers this season as well, with the likes of Robert du Preez, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Brandon Thomson and now lately youngster Damian Willemse being preferred.
Coleman has mostly done well when he was the starting No 10 over the years, but he was never given a proper opportunity to establish himself as the first-choice pivot at Newlands.
So, perhaps the move to the Kings for the Knysna-born playmaker is just what Coleman needs to make it to the top, as the 27-year-old is likely to be the first-choice flyhalf in the PRO14.
The Kings announced on Tuesday that coach Deon Davids has also agreed to a three-year deal, with the first PRO14 match taking place on September 2 against the defending champions Scarlets from Wales at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
“I’m happy to be with the Southern Kings now for the next three years,” Davids said on the Kings website.
“We’ll be starting this process of putting together a squad all over again. We lost a number of our squad from the Super Rugby campaign, and we are busy putting together a new, competitive squad.
“We have identified a large group of players and we have communicated, through our office, to the different unions regarding the players we would like to be here. The players that have joined us already are the ones that have been released from their duties at those unions.”
A player who was in a similar situation to Coleman is utility back S’bura Sithole, who has been sidelined at the Sharks for a number of years.
The last time he played regularly was when Jake White was the Super Rugby coach, and at the time, Sithole was called up to a Springbok training camp in 2014 by Meyer as an outside centre.
Sithole was certainly good enough to play Test rugby, but since White left Durban after the 2014 season, former Blitzbok star Sithole has hardly seen any Super Rugby action.
So it is also a new beginning for the 27-year-old.
“There are some players whom we are still awaiting the response of their various unions to release them as soon as possible,” said Davids.
“We would have loved to wait for more players coming off-contract at the end of October, but we would have played eight games up until then, so we will have to prepare sufficiently now to ensure that we have a squad that has depth.
“I’ll be starting on a clean slate. If a player puts up his hand, I’ll back him.”
Southern Kings Squad (more players to be added)
Berton Klaasen, Bobby de Wee, CJ Velleman, Cornal Hendricks, Dries van Schalkwyk, Jacques Nel, Jarryd Sage, Khaya Majola, Kurt Coleman, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Lusanda Badiyana, Masixole Banda, Ntabeni Dukisa, Oliver Zono, Pieter-Steyn de Wet, Rowan Gouws, S’bura Sithole, Schalk Ferreira, Stephan Greeff, Tango Balekile, Tienie Burger, Victor Sekekete, Yaw Penxe.