CAPE TOWN - At the end of 2014, Cornal Hendricks had the world at his feet.
He was in the Springbok starting line-up, had scored five tries in 12 Tests, and was looking forward to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
After finishing up at the Cheetahs in Super Rugby in 2015, he signed a new deal with the Stormers – finally a chance to play for his home franchise, as he hails from Wellington in the Western Cape.
But then it all came crashing down, with a heart defect leading to him missing out on the World Cup, the 2016 Rio Olympics and the Stormers.
He had to wait until 2019 to return to the rugby field, when the Bulls gave him a chance after he received a number of medical opinions that he was fit to play.
Such has been his transformation in his new inside centre position that the now-33-year-old Hendricks is a real contender for the Springbok squad that will be announced by coach Jacques Nienaber on Saturday night for next month’s Tests against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions.
But there has been another situation at play in the background. Hendricks felt hard done by when SA Rugby decided that he wasn’t able to play in 2015 and tore up his national contract, with Bulls coach Jake White stating on Friday night that the No 12 was involved in litigation with the governing body.
Hendricks produced another outstanding performance, with his dynamic footwork and strong defence prominent in the Bulls’ 31-27 victory over the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld.
There are a number of strong Bok contenders at inside centre, including incumbent Damian de Allende, Frans Steyn, Jan Serfontein and André Esterhuizen, but White is hoping that the matter can be resolved – whether Nienaber wants to pick Hendricks or not.
“I don’t know if I’m allowed to or supposed to (say it), but there is work at play with him and SA Rugby to sort out that whole dispute that they had. I think once that happens, they will be openness from SA Rugby to include him. I think it is difficult when you have a guy like him – I think he had a litigation incident now with them, in terms of… But he’s seen the light,” White said.
“I’ve chatted to him and said ‘Don’t go and lose the opportunity…’, so I am hoping that common sense will prevail. I think the process has already started, and SA Rugby and whoever is involved in those decisions have met with Cornal and his legal staff.
“I think it all bodes well for South Africa, because he has so much to offer and can play so many positions. He’s experienced, he’s played sevens. So, I am hoping that in the next couple of days, if he misses out, at least they will sort something out so that at least he gets another crack.
“He is on the same page. It is very difficult for me to give you the detail, but he is on the same page and appreciates that he doesn’t want to miss out on opportunities now that he is enjoying his rugby and playing so well.”
Hendricks could also feature for the South Africa A team that will face the British and Irish Lions on July 14 at the Cape Town Stadium.