FILE - Jan Hendrik Wessels of the Bulls in action during a Currie Cup game against the Lions at Ellis Park in August. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
FILE - Jan Hendrik Wessels of the Bulls in action during a Currie Cup game against the Lions at Ellis Park in August. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Moving to hooker a deal for Jan-Hendrik Wessels as Bulls lose Johan Goosen

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Sep 9, 2021

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CAPE TOWN – At first, Jan-Hendrik Wessels admits that he was “a bit shocked” when coach Jake White suggested that he move from prop to hooker for the Blue Bulls.

It was his second major change within a few weeks, as the coach had already asked him to shift from his preferred loosehead prop position to tighthead.

That is not something most props are willing, or able, to do. Now, imagine being told you will not have to lift in the lineouts, but rather throw the ball straight into it ...

“He asked me on a Thursday, when we had quite a few injuries – I thought I was going to be the third hooker in a worst-case scenario. I didn’t think he had any plan to take it forward,” Wessels said from Loftus Versfeld this week ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Sharks (Loftus, 5pm kick-off).

“So, I didn’t think it was a big thing, and I thought I would be part of the 26-man group for the weekend’s game as a prop and hooker (cover).

“Later on I thought long and hard about it, and I was a bit shocked – it’s a big thing. The lineouts and scrums just don’t happen by themselves.

“But I am working hard on it, and I am enjoying it. The throw-ins are something you can measure every day, and if you work on it and you grow, then it’s great.”

It doesn’t help that Wessels is quite tall for a hooker at 1.93m, while he is a big unit at 120kg as well.

But after a couple of shaky early lineout throw-ins, the former Grey College player seems to have found his groove, and has even done whatever any good hooker should do – score tries from driving mauls.

He has not yet made up his mind about the future, though.

“It’s not easy going to hooker – the throw-ins especially, and also the scrums. It’s been challenging,” Wessels said.

“The season maybe played in my favour with Johan Grobbelaar going to the Springboks, and we had injuries at that time, so I got a chance and I think I used it well.

“Hopefully, I get a chance in the final – it was good to play in the semi-final and a few games before that.

“At the moment, I am still looking at how I am feeling and where I want to play.

“I am enjoying it – it’s nice to get game time, so I don’t want to stick to any position. I will play where the team needs me, and I haven’t got it in my head yet that I want to play prop or hooker.”

He is also not putting extra pressure on himself after White said it is just a matter of when, and not if, Wessels will play for the Boks.

“It’s the first time I hear that! But no, it’s good if a coach backs you as that’s all you want,” Wessels said.

Meanwhile, White confirmed that star flyhalf Johan Goosen won’t feature in the final as he has contracted Covid-19, with Chris Smith likely to slot in at No 10 against the Sharks.

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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