Bulls veterans Cornal Hendricks, Gio Aplon still have enough gas left in the tank
THERE are some serious speedsters in the Bulls squad, among them Kurt-Lee Arendse, Stedman Gans and Embrose Papier.
But former Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks, nowadays an inside centre at the Bulls, reckons he and fellow experienced outside back Gio Aplon can still keep up with the youngsters.
“Kurt-Lee is very explosive with a lot of pace, and Gio’s still got pace. But to be honest, I’m very, very quick! I don’t want to brag!” the 32-year-old giggled during a Zoom press conference from Loftus yesterday.
“Gio and I are still in the top 10, but Kurt-Lee, (Travis) Ismaiel are all quick, and obviously Stedman as well.
At one stage, Hendricks was one of the quickest men in South African rugby, and became a Sevens star with the Blitzboks, later graduating to the Bok Test team. His proudest moment may have been the scintillating try he scored against the All Blacks in Wellington in 2014.
But just when he was about to hit the big time at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, a heart condition ruled him out of contention and also halted a move to the Stormers in 2016.
It looked like Hendricks’ career was over, but he was given a second chance at the Bulls last year. There were again doubts about whether he would stay on in Pretoria following the arrival of Jake White as the new boss at Loftus, as the former Bok coach immediately put his stamp on the squad by releasing a number of players, including Rosko Specman, Divan Rossouw and even captain Burger Odendaal.
But Hendricks survived the cull, and repaid the faith shown in him by White with a sparkling display in the SuperFan warm-up game against the Sharks on September 26.
He was picked at inside centre, and there was a sense of him completing a full circle, having first emerged on the provincial scene in the midfield for Boland.
“It was a good experience for me. I started my career at number 13 at Boland, and I also played centre for the Blitzboks. So, it was a good experience for me, and I think that I slotted in fairly comfortably for the Bulls,” Hendricks said.
“Coach Jake said earlier in the year that he is trying a lot of combinations. If it works, it works, but for now, I’m just going to focus on centre. But as coach Jake said, there are still a lot of combinations that he wants to try.
“Our focus this year is to express ourselves in our positions. Obviously the game has changed, and we all want to see a big, physical 12. But I’m just there to organise, and when I get the ball, to give momentum - and from there, just to play rugby.”
Hendricks and centre partner Gans were incisive against the Sharks in a resounding 49-28 victory, and will hope to continue on that path in their Super Rugby Unlocked opener against Griquas at Loftus on Saturday.
Meanwhile, prop Trevor Nyakane is unlikely to play this weekend after being withdrawn from the past weekend’s Springbok Showdown at Newlands. The Bok front-ranker had been in close contact with Oupa Mohoje, who tested positive for Covid-19, and was withdrawn as a precaution.