Cornal Hendricks has no hard feelings towards Western Province
CAPE TOWN - Cornal Hendricks has a long history with the Stormers and Western Province, but it’s not one he would want to remember fondly.
Having quickly become a stalwart at the Boland Cavaliers as an outside centre, Hendricks would’ve thought that he would get an opportunity at Super Rugby level under new Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee in 2010.
He waited for three seasons, but the breakthrough never materialised as Coetzee ignored him. Springboks Jaque Fourie and Juan de Jongh were the starting centres, but Hendricks wasn’t even in the greater squad, with the likes of Frikkie Welsh, Tim Whitehead and Dylan des Fountain preferred – and later, Jean de Villiers returned to the Cape and Johann Sadie came through.
The speedster from Wellington opted to make his name in the sevens arena with the Blitzboks, and then trekked to Bloemfontein and became a 15-man Springbok with the Cheetahs – just like Willie le Roux, who had also been a Boland star, but was not deemed worthy of Stormers selection by Coetzee.
It seemed as if things would come full circle in late 2015, when Hendricks finally signed a deal with the Stormers – but fate intervened once more. A sudden heart condition meant that he was unable to play, and he never donned the Stormers or WP jersey.
So, it would be understandable if the now-32-year-old Blue Bulls No 12 wanted to make a big statement against Province in the Currie Cup at Newlands on Saturday (7pm), but it sounds like he has moved on from the past. Or has he?
“Erm, no, no point to prove ...” Hendricks said.
“If I play against WP, there are no emotions. It’s about focusing on what I can do better in the team. I was very happy at Free State, and now I am a Bull.
“I am very happy here, and have no intention to move anywhere else. I didn’t take it personally for not playing for the Stormers or WP. For me, it’s about being better against them, and contributing my one percent to my team’s performance every time we play against them. Nothing to prove against the Stormers …”
Since that WP deal fell through, the last four years have been the toughest of his career. Possible stints at the Bulls and Toulon didn’t work out due to the heart condition, but he eventually made his return to the game at Loftus Versfeld last year.
The Bulls’ struggles in Super Rugby earlier this year saw coach Pote Human replaced by Jake
White, and there were reports that Hendricks could also be one of a number of players who would be released by the union.
Instead, it all worked out in glorious fashion for the 12-Test Springbok. White moved him to inside centre, where he has formed an outstanding partnership with Stedman Gans.
“I’ve been through a lot over the past three or four years, and now I have a trophy.
“Now playing inside centre – Coach Jake is a world-class coach, and credit to Coach Chris (Rossouw) as well, as the backline coach. They are backing me on 12, and I’m still learning,” said Hendricks.
“But I’m very happy with my performance, and trying to improve myself in the small areas every weekend.
“It’s a great feeling for me to win a trophy again. I haven’t won something since 2014, when I played for the Blitzboks at the Commonwealth Games.”